Man Utd move to back to the summit with 4-0 win - player ratings including two 8s
An excellent second half performance from Manchester United would see them beat West Ham United in front of 27, 919 fans at Old Trafford to keep the pressure on at the top of the Women’s Super League (WSL).
Second half strikes from captain Katie Zelem (52 pen) substitute Lucia Garcia (65, 90) and Hayley Ladd (84) would seal the win as Manchester United graced the Old Trafford pitch for the second time this WSL season.
Manchester United boss Marc Skinner named an unchanged line up from United’s last WSL game, though January signing Jayde Riviere was named amongst the substitutes for the first time. Elsewhere Leah Galton made her 100th appearance.
The first chance of the game would come from a familiar source when Ona Batlle collection a superb diagnoal from Maya Le Tissier to place an inch perfect cross for Alessia Russo but the United forward uncharacteristically fired wide.
West Ham would grow into the game following that early chance though and were able to keep United at bay for the first half hour of the clash, with Skinner’s side restricted to a half chance from the head of Leah Galton. A lengthly stoppage for an injury to Mary Earps would also derail the home side’s momentum slightly.
There were big appeals for a penalty from the home fans minutes before the break as Galton fell in the box. Few could confirm if it was a spot kick in real time, though replays showed Grace Fisk may well have clipped the winger heels.
Once again, it would be Russo who would go close in the second period when her bullet header from Zelem’s corner would sail over the crossbar, though she didn’t have to wait to much longer to make further impact when she was fouled in the area by Hawa Cissoko - United captain Zelem stepped up and made no mistake to open the scoring, much to the delight of the home fans.
Russo would continue to cause problems for the Hammers defence in the second period and her wicked 20 yard drive almost sneaked beyond Mackenzie Arnold. Seconds later she would swing in a terrific ball across to Galton who was inches away from adding the finishing touch to a great move.
United would get a second with 25 minutes left on the clock though when good pressing from Galton on the edge of the West Ham area would then saw the ball land to Ella Toone who pinged over an inch perfect pass to substitute Garcia and the Spaniard made no mistake from close range to score her fourth WSL goal of the season.
Ladd added to the scoreline when she placed home after good play between Garcia and the outstanding Batlle - who grabbed her ninth assist of the season and Garcia would seal an impressive second half with her second goal when she finished home from close range after MacKenzie had failed to hold Martha Thomas’ drive.
After a rocky first 45 minutes, the game became plain sailing for Skinner’s side who ran out deserved winners in front of a bumper WSL crowd. The win lifts United back to the top of the WSL temporarily with Chelsea not in action until tomorrow as they visit fourth placed Manchester City.
Mary Earps: She had little to do such was United’s dominance in possession so a hard one to judge. 6/10.
Ona Batlle: Played in a beautiful ball for an early Russo chance and continues to be United’s best going forward and in defence. An absolute nightmare for defenders 8/10.
Millie Turner: Drove forward from well from defence. 6/10.
Maya Le Tissier: Pinged some superb balls from the back and never looked troubled defensively. 7/10
Hannah Blundell: A few good bursts of pace down the wing allowed Galton to drift more central. Solid defensively. 6/10.
Ella Toone: Quiet by her standards but improved in the second 45 and grabbed a superb assist from United’s second. 6/10.
Katie Zelem (c): Took her penalty well and kept United ticking over with her progressive passing. 6/10.
Hayley Ladd: Neat, tidy and rarely lost possession. Standard performance from the midfielder. 6/10.
Nikita Parris: Poor from the Lionesses winger who really struggled to get behind Kirsty Smith before being replaced early in the second half. 5/10.
Alessia Russo: Will have been disappointed to miss her early chance, but was outstanding the second period. Firstly earning the penalty. 8/10
Leah Galton: Always looked dangerous and kept the Hammers defence occupied throughout with her movement. 6/10.
Lucia Garcia (for Parris 55): Came on and scored within ten minutes - then scored again. Made a really positive impact. 7/10.
Martha Thomas (for Galton 66): Got involved with the ball and helped set up the fourth goal. 6/10.
Rachel Williams (for Russo 80): Replaced Russo late on. N/A
Aoife Mannion (for Turner 80): Continued on the comeback trail with 10 minutes on the Old Trafford pitch. N/A.
Player of the match:
Ona Batlle - the defender was her side’s best defender, best attacker and - at points - the best midfielder. Covered the whole of the pitch and never seemed to run out of energy. Such an outstanding footballer.