Alessia Russo’s injury-time strike gives Manchester United victory at Arsenal | Women’s Super League

Alessia Russo’s injury-time header helped Manchester United recover from a second-half collapse to end Arsenal’s perfect start to the season and draw them level at the top in a thrilling 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium.

In front of the second-largest WSL crowd of 40,604, after the 47,367 that attended Arsenal’s defeat of Tottenham at the Emirates, United took the lead through Ella Toone late in the first half before Arsenal struck back in the second. Frida Maanum drew Arsenal level before Laura Wienroither gave them the lead.

United flipped the script though, with Katie Zelem delivering twice from set pieces, first for Millie Turner, then Russo to send the hefty away contingent wild.

Manchester United manager, Marc Skinner, had urged his team to step up against the top teams before this game. “As a group, we have to keep pushing each other because we want to be in these games, winning these types of games even though we know how difficult that is to do,” Skinner said.

United suffered a bruising 3-1 defeat by Chelsea before the international break, their first loss and first goals conceded of the season.

In the reverse fixture against Arsenal last season, a 79th minute goal from Arsenal’s Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius denied the visiting side a huge three points at Borehamwood after Alessia Russo’s first-half opener.

Skinner said his team’s growth has been huge since that 1-1 draw but, ultimately, the real test of that growth will be reflected on at Christmas, after they have played Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City in three of their last four games before the winter pause.

The international break has taken its toll on the increasingly depleted Arsenal but centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy was fit enough, following a mild quad strain, to return to partner Steph Catley at the back with Leah Williamson and Rafaelle both still out with foot injuries. Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead, Manuela Zinsberger and Laura Wienroither all also started despite all suffering injuries at different points during the break.

United, meanwhile, welcomed back Ona Batlle for the trip to London with the right-back having not played since mid-October.

Millie Turner scores Manchester United’s second goal of the game against Arsenal.
Millie Turner equalises for Manchester United in the 85th minute. Photograph: Zac Goodwin/PA

You could have been forgiven for thinking the visiting team in green were the unbeaten side that is flying in the league in the first half, rather than a team emerging from a tough defeat to Chelsea. United were slick and rampant and the Gunners gifted them possession in the middle far too often, with the trio of Nobbs, Maanum and Lia Wälti struggling – the influential captain, Kim Little, who has a knee injury, an obvious miss.

It looked like United could having been following a similar path of one trod often under Skinner – of not capitalising on a strong first half performance – but a richly deserved goal to given them the lead came six minutes before the break, having won possession in the middle the ball was played wide to Hayley Ladd on the right and the midfielder swung a cross to the back post where the unmarked Toone, who had snuck in behind Wubben-Moy, sidefooted in.

Their profligacy would be punished instantly in the second half though, as Maanum hustled the ball from Nikita Parris inside the centre circle before gliding towards the edge of the area and sending in a shot that would loop off centre-back Maya Le Tissier and in. Arsenal had come out of the dressing room fighting, playing with an intensity sorely lacking in the first half and United were rattled. A hefty but fair challenge on Parris by Caitlin Foord in front of the United technical area resulted in Skinner receiving a yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.

After the hour mark Vivienne Miedema came on, in place of Nobbs, after she was rested for Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat of Leicester and the international break.

Hard work from Miedema would lead to Arsenal’s second, having broken in on the left the Dutch forward was forced to shift the ball backwards to Foord, who fed Katie McCabe who swung the ball to the back post where Wienroither volleyed in her first goal for Arsenal from close range.

Sam Kerr helps Chelsea end Manchester United’s unbeaten WSL start | Women’s Super League

The gap between Manchester United and Chelsea is closing, but the WSL champions emphasised their continued superiority over United with a hard-earned 3-1 defeat of their title challengers.

It was fitting, somewhat, that the former United starlet Lauren James scored Chelsea’s important second goal in front of a record home crowd of 6,186. James was the talisman of a United team looking to power to the top after being re-formed in 2018, but she spent much of last season on the bench for Chelsea, with Emma Hayes saying she was far from ready for a place in the first team.

James’s goal came four minutes after Sam Kerr had put the first goal past Mary Earps in the league this season. Alessia Russo’s strike helped spark United back to life but they could not find the leveller and Erin Cuthbert’s deflected strike in added time killed things.

Praising James, Chelsea’s general manager, Paul Green, who revealed Hayes would return to the dugout for the team’s game against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge after the international break, said: “We’ve got a hell of a player on our hands, and we just need to keep developing her the right way.”

James said: “It was sweet [scoring against my former club] … Sometimes the fans have booed me here. But I love Chelsea and I’m trying to do my best for them.”

United’s manager, Marc Skinner, said before kick-off that “the great thing about tonight is that we can cause them as many problems as they cause us”. That may have sounded fanciful given United are yet to beat Chelsea, home or away, since they won promotion to the WSL in 2019. Instead, United have now lost five and drawn once, with this fixture last season ending in a bruising 6-1 defeat, but his team are a far grittier beast this season.

At a bitterly cold and rain-swept Leigh Sports Village, where cars queued, barely moving, right up to kick-off to try and squeeze into the car parks that surround the isolated stadium, it was a tightly fought first half, with United edging possession (53%) and the sides having one shot on target apiece.

Chelsea could feel aggrieved to not have been awarded a penalty, with Maya Le Tissier crashing into Guro Reiten’s knee in the box, narrowly missing the ball.

“There was nothing really in it in the first half,” said Skinner. “Second half I felt we were outdone by lapses in concentration and their speed of thought was a little bit quicker than ours, especially at the back. We spoke about their movement, and we need to be better with that.”

Alessia Russo scores
Alessia Russo scores for Manchester United after they had gone two goals down against Chelsea in the second half. Photograph: Richard Sellers/PA

On the hour mark came the first shot on target of the second half, and it resulted in Chelsea taking the lead. The usually solid Millie Turner gifted possession to Sophie Ingle and the midfielder found Kerr, who tucked into the bottom corner.

It was quickly followed by the second. Kerr, this time the provider, collected a ball over the top and raced clear on the left before cutting back for James to power in, the 21-year-old sliding to her knees in celebration in front of the United Barmy Army that so worshiped her when she wore red for three years.

United were rocked and the visiting side upped the ante, with Reiten crashing an effort off the post.

The reply came very much against the run of play, but it made the temporarily muted home crowd roar to life. This time it was a Chelsea error. Erin Cuthbert conceded the ball to Ella Toone and the United forward released Russo, who finished coolly past Ann-Katrin Berger.

Quick Guide

WSL roundup


Steph Catley scored
straight from a corner as Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal made it six wins
from six in the WSL against rock-bottom Leicester, with Frida Maanum,
Caitlin Foord and Beth Mead also finding the net. Rachel Daly’s
second-half penalty ended Aston Villa’s three-game losing run and left
Liverpool languishing third bottom with just three points. Danielle
Carter struck twice during Brighton’s 5-4 win at West Ham. The
Seagulls were 3-1 up at the break and 5-2 up with 20 minutes to play only for a late double from Viviane Asseyi to take the game to the
wire, but they held on and took themselves off the
bottom with their first points of the season. And Reading skipper
Emma Mukandi endured a wretched afternoon, scoring two own-goals against visitors Manchester City
before Bunny Shaw’s seventh in six league games wrapped up the

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Lifted by the goal United regained their composure and were threatening, but they could not breach the Chelsea backline again and Cuthbert atoned for her error sending a deflected effort past Earps.

United drop to third, three points behind Chelsea, who have played a game more, while Arsenal moved top after a 4-0 defeat of Leicester City.

The pain driving Manchester United’s supercharged WSL start | Manchester United Women

Manchester United’s thrilling start to the Women’s Super League season, with five straight wins and five clean sheets, has put them top, with one goal separating them from second-place Arsenal. The run of the only team yet to concede has been somewhat unexpected, but should it be?

This is a United squad fuelled by disappointment, driven by a desire to avoid feeling the pain that has engulfed them at the end of the past two seasons. After a maiden WSL campaign under Casey Stoney, in which they finished fourth, 13 points off third-placed Arsenal, the regrets have been plentiful.

In their second season the team came agonisingly close to disrupting the triumvirate of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, finishing one point behind the Gunners, but they were still eight points off a Champions League spot. Last term the pain was more acute, with United at times favourites to secure third place and a spot in Champions League qualifying after a format change, only for City to pip them by five points. City charged to the line after a rocky start, but third was very much United’s to lose and they crumbled.

In the 10 games in which they dropped points (four losses and six draws) the team gave up a lead or conceded late in seven. In a 2-2 draw at home to City, goals from Lucy Staniforth and Alessia Russo helped United to come from behind before they conceded to Ellen White in the 79th minute.

Against Tottenham, Russo’s goal in the 45th minute was cancelled out by Ria Percival in the 90th. Ella Toone’s first-half strike against Everton was undone by Simone Magill in the second half.

After Russo had given United an early lead at Arsenal, they could not prevent Stina Blackstenius from scoring in the 79th minute. On course to take a point away at City, Marc Skinner’s side conceded in the 81st minute in February to lose 1-0.

Toone’s goal against West Ham was cancelled out by Grace Fisk’s 90th-minute effort and finally, on the last day, United twice led against the eventual champions, Chelsea, only to lose 4-2.

The way in which the team dropped points accentuated the pain. “I sat with you at the end of the season and said it hurts,” Skinner said after United’s professional and composed 3-0 defeat of Everton last Sunday. “Hurt drives the hunger – we’re hungry.”

Watching United’s defeat of a well-organised Everton, in a fixture they drew last term, was symbolic of their growth. It was a patient and composed performance. Where last season United fell away in second halves, here they turned the screw, goals from Hayley Ladd and Leah Galton extending their lead.

Ladd described the performances this season as “mature” after that match. The team have benefited from the confidence coursing through the veins of their four European champions. The goalkeeper Mary Earps was superb when called into action against Everton, Toone is the creative engine and Russo, when fit, and Nikita Parris have been firing. They understand how to beat the best and never say die like never before.

The true test of this new maturity and grit is to come, though. On Sunday comes the visit of Chelsea, who have won the past three titles and are level on points with United and Arsenal but have played a game more. Then, after the international break, United travel to Arsenal before hosting Aston Villa at Old Trafford and playing City at the Etihad in their final league games of 2022.

The goalkeeper Mary Earps in action against Leicester
The goalkeeper Mary Earps, in action here against Leicester, is one of four Euro 2022 winners in Manchester United’s squad. Photograph: Graham Chadwick/The FA/Getty Images

“That is what we are here for,” said Skinner, when asked about those fixtures. “We want to pitch ourselves against the teams that are, historically, the best in the country. We aspire to be there.”

For now, talk is of United being well in the hunt to get into the Champions League for the first time, but when does the conversation shift to the team being genuine title contenders? Perhaps it should have already.

Manchester United return to summit as Nikita Parris fires WSL win over Everton | Women’s Super League

Manchester United returned to the summit of the WSL table and continued their unbeaten run with victory over Everton at Walton Hall Park.

Nikita Parris’s first-half goal against her former club was added to by Leah Galton and Hayley Ladd in the second half as United increased their goal difference to 14.

After missing out on a place in the Champions League by a single point last season, United are on a mission fuelled by being so close to the next milestone for the club.

This term, everything is clicking for Marc Skinner’s team. Even without injured forward Alessia Russo, who returned to the bench for the trip to Everton, the United train is rolling freely.

The trip to in-form Everton began a run of tough games that will put the new hardier Red Devils to the test. Next weekend, United host Chelsea and then after the international break the team travels to north London to play Arsenal.

Their opponents at a windy and rain-swept Walton Hall Park have been transformed by manager Brian Sorensen. The Danish manager joined the Toffees from Fortuna Hjorring in the summer, replacing former Lyon manager Jean-Luc Vasseur.

Vasseur had presided over a poor 10th-place finish, five places below their 2020-21 tally, with the Blues taking five wins and 20 points from 22 games.

Skinner was full of praise for Sorensen’s impact, warning that United needed to be “very careful” in the way they approached them. “Brian [Sorensen] has come in and done an excellent job in terms of changing the style of play, they’re much more based with the ball, very good at moving it and finding pockets of space,” he said.

Despite the threat of the home side, it took 13 minutes for United to break through the organised back three of Katrine Veje, Rikke Sevecke and Megan Finnigan.

Goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, returned to the starting XI with United loanee Emily Ramsey ineligible, rose with defender Finnigan and United Galton but it was the forward that got to it first, heading down into the run of Parris who fired into the empty net.

Everton’s Gabby George forced a smart save from England goalkeeper Mary Earps almost instantly but despite the home side matching the visiting team in the middle, they struggled to carve out chances against the United back line.

Leah Galton scores Manchester United’s second goal.
Leah Galton scores Manchester United’s second goal. Photograph: Cameron Smith/Getty Images

There were two changes for Everton at the break, with Chelsea loanee Aggie Beever-Jones and Sweden’s Hanna Bennison off for Katja Snoeijs and Izzy Christiansen.

Whether it was the changes disrupting their rhythm or not, the Blues were made to work hard after the break and as United put their foot on the gas, Everton seemed to ease off theirs.

In the 55th minute the visiting team were rewarded for a patient and organised performance. Galton wrong-footed Finnigan, and nutmegged Sevecke as she fired in past Brosnan.

The third was another quality strike, Hayley Ladd collecting from Lucia Garcia before powering in from the edge of the box.

It was comfortable for Skinner’s side in the end, with Everton playing the last nine minutes with 10 players after Veje was forced off with an injury, and there was time for Russo to make her return from injury with 71 minutes on the clock.

Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action | Women’s Super League

Arsenal will not get carried away by derby drubbing

Two games into a new season is no time to try to determine the destination of the Women’s Super League title or who is on track for a Champions League spot. Arsenal will be aware of this and the need to take things game by game having begun last season with a 3-2 win over Chelsea before being pipped to the title by the same team by a single point. So while Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat of Tottenham on Saturday was comprehensive and slick, Jonas Eidevall and his team will not get carried away, especially given how poor the visitors were in front of a record WSL crowd of 47,367. “We didn’t play our game as well as we could have,” said Tottenham’s head coach, Rehanne Skinner. “We were too tentative in the press and that created challenges for us on the ball.” Suzanne Wrack

Villa’s signings give them a new lease of life

Aston Villa’s 2-0 victory at Leicester on Sunday was a history-making moment for the club given it secured them back-to-back wins in the WSL for the first time. New signings have revitalised Carla Ward’s team, none more so than Rachel Daly, whose early penalty was her third goal of the season as she continues to build on her excellent performances for England at the European Championship. Emily Gielnik struck four minutes from time to extinguish any chance of a Leicester comeback. Eight points separated these two sides last year and while the Foxes have lingering defensive issues, Villa march onwards and upwards with a squad that looks ready to take on anyone. Renuka Odedra

United finally look ready for Champions League fight

Manchester United have some heavyweight names in their squad, such as Ella Toone, Katie Zelem and Alessia Russo, but it was two lesser-profile players who shone in their 2-0 victory over West Ham on Sunday. Lucia García, who joined United from Athletic Bilbao in the summer, and Hannah Blundell scored their first goals for the club, highlighting the strength in depth United now have, and especially from a goalscoring point-of-view. It’s a trait that might allow Marc Skinner’s side to break the stronghold of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal and secure a Champions League place this season. RO

Positives for City but Taylor’s troops still look aimless

Gareth Taylor was pointed in his comments after Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat by Chelsea. “Players make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, and we’ve got to be super-careful that we’re not jumping on it,” he said. “I saw more positive things from the team and I’ve fed that back to them.” He is not wrong, there were positives on Sunday, especially in their first-half performance. However, the visitors struggled for a reaction after conceding the first goal of the game and it quickly became Chelsea’s to lose rather than City’s to win. The big concern for last season’s third-placed side is that they look aimless – either the plan is wrong or it’s not being executed properly. SW

Reading raging again after another controversial call

“If this [officiating] is not addressed, it’s going to start costing managers jobs,” said a furious Kelly Chambers after Reading suffered a 2-1 defeat at Brighton. It was the second week in a row Reading came away from a game feeling hard done by the officials. The controversy in question occurred half an hour into Sunday’s contest, when Deanna Cooper rose to head in a clever free-kick. The assistant’s flag went up, but replays showed the defender was onside. Brighton then took the lead through Lee Geum-min and while Reading dominated the second half they were ultimately left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal, as well as the assistant’s flag. Sophie Downey

“If officials don’t begin to improve, it’s going to stop the growth of our game and Manager’s will begin to get the sack.”

See the full interview with Kelly Chambers 👇

— Reading FC Women (@ReadingFCWomen) September 25, 2022

Park takes pride of place in Everton’s storming of Anfield

Everton’s summer of change involved a new manager, the exit of nine senior players, five permanent signings and loan deals for several young players including Manchester City’s Jess Park, Chelsea’s Aggie Beever-Jones and Arsenal’s Gio Queiroz. The loan strategy was deliberate, offering valuable playing time to developing players who may need to be patient elsewhere, and paid dividends at Anfield where 20-year-old Park excelled in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool. Brian Sorensen, savouring his first win as Everton manager, said: “When I first talked to the club I had some targets. I wanted young English players like Jess Park and Aggie Beever-Jones and we were lucky to get them. I am so happy for Jess. The way she performed was top.” Andy Hunter