Manchester United 2, Everton 0
Ella Toone, 9’
Christen Press, 41’
Taking the pitch for the last match of the weekend in the FA Women’s Super League was Manchester United and Everton, both teams with something to prove in Sunday’s tilt.
With “Big Three” squads Chelsea and Manchester City each blanking their opponents 4-0 earlier that morning, capturing a victory against Everton was a necessity for the Reds in order to keep pace for a top-three finish. As for Everton, the odds seemed to be stacked against them — having dropped three of their last five contests in less-than-stellar performances, a statement win against United would be just what the squad was looking for moving forward.
Despite a fight from Everton, it was Manchester United who would come out on top, bagging the win behind goals from Ella Toone and Christen Press to improve to 10-1-2. Now tied with Chelsea at 32 points apiece, Manchester United remain at second place in the table for another week — a feat that was achieved without the assistance of Tobin Heath, who has contributed four goals in eleven appearances for United this season. It was announced on Saturday that Heath would be sidelined for 10-12 weeks after sustaining an ankle injury during a training session.
Best of luck with your recovery, @TobinHeath — we're all right behind you! ????#MUWomen pic.twitter.com/aaHkEd3ubK— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) January 30, 2021
Best of luck with your recovery, @TobinHeath — we're all right behind you! ????#MUWomen pic.twitter.com/aaHkEd3ubK
“As with all injuries I always say it is a window of opportunity for someone else,” Manchester United manager Casey Stoney said of Heath’s injury. “Obviously it is a big loss for us and it’s disappointing for her, but she is heavily influential in our environment and we will work to get her back as safe and quick as possible.”
Even without Heath in their lineup, Manchester United asserted their dominance with Sunday’s win, proving that they deserve to be in the mix with top teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
Determined to maintain their position in the table, Manchester United kicked off the scoring early as Leah Galton received a ball up the left flank and positioned herself to send in a cross. Lofting a ball across the face of the Everton net, Galton’s cross would fall into the hands of goalkeeper Sandy MacIver.
Unfortunately for the Blues, MacIver was unable to maintain possession of the ball as it slipped from her hands and into the path of United midfielder Ella Toone. With MacIver now caught out of position, Toone tapped in her sixth goal of the season to give the Reds a 1-0 advantage in the 10th minute.
.@ManUtdWomen have taken the lead through @@ellatoone99!#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/85gg41nDbG— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) January 31, 2021
.@ManUtdWomen have taken the lead through @@ellatoone99!#BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/85gg41nDbG
Later, it was Toone on the ball again, this time nearly adding a second goal in the 35th minute when a ball was cleared from midfield and into her path. Beating three Everton defenders in a footrace, the young star took a touch towards the goal, likely costing her the brace as the delay allowed one of the defenders to land a tackle before she was able to fire off a shot. The attempt was saved by Sandy MacIver, denying Toone the chance of adding a cushion to United’s lead.
In the 41st minute, Hayley Ladd threaded a pass to Christen Press just outside the eighteen. Cutting her first touch inside her body and to her left foot, Press narrowly avoided the advances of Everton defender Danielle Turner, utilizing her signature speed on the ball to take another touch forward. With the extra touch, she had no trouble slotting the ball past Sandy MacIver and into the lower ninety to score her second goal in a United uniform.
It's a second #BarclaysFAWSL goal for @ChristenPress! ???? pic.twitter.com/puR0N63Jj3— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) January 31, 2021
It's a second #BarclaysFAWSL goal for @ChristenPress! ???? pic.twitter.com/puR0N63Jj3
As the first half wound to a close, Manchester United held tightly to their 2-0 lead, rendering their opponent scoreless through 45 minutes of play.
Needless to say, Everton would need to cut into Manchester United’s lead early into the second half should they want a chance at a comeback campaign. A scoring opportunity would arise for midfielder Jill Scott in the 65th minute, who curved an impressive shot from distance in an attempt to get Everton onto the scoresheet. Scott’s chance, however, would be snuffed out by United goalkeeper Mary Earps, who made a stellar diving save to maintain the clean sheet. Ultimately, Scott’s chance would be one of the few that Everton was able to create.
The second half remained scoreless for both squads as Manchester United secured another victory on the road. Though Sunday’s match was certainly not Manchester United’s best performance, it was enough to render them still competitive with first-place Chelsea.