Manchester United cut through a well organised Birmingham back line to pick up all three points at the Leigh Sports Village Stadium.
Leah Galton and Ella Toone provided the goals for the home side in the second half to cement all three points against a stubborn Carla Ward's side.
In a relatively frustrating fixture for the home side, the visitors in Blue will have taken a lot out of going toe to toe with one of the main contenders for the Women’s Super League title this season.
Story of the Match
As expected in the early exchanges, United dominated the bulk of possession, looking to Lauren James as the catalyst to their attacking play. They tested Hannah Hampton in the Birmingham goal through Galton and Toone early on, with James firing just over.
After that early pressure, Birmingham tried to settle into the game, with Claudia Walker putting a couple of dangerous crosses into the box that Jamie-Lee Napier nearly got on the end of. The Midland side were well organised, and they frustrated the Red Devils with a low block that forced United to remain patient and recycle possession.
A key chance of the first half came through Jackie Groenen, as United finally turned in behind a stubborn Birmingham backline, with James cutting the ball back to the Dutch midfielder who blazed over the bar from 12 yards out.
Just on the stroke of half time, the home side should have taken the lead as a superb through ball from Katie Zelem found Galton who stretched towards goal from six yards out with the effort well saved by Hampton.
The second half got off to a flying start for United as they quickly broke down the Birmingham block as Galton finally fired home just 40 seconds after the kickoff. A fine ball from James found the winger creeping at the back post and she placed home from mere yards out to give her side the lead.
On the hour mark James was replaced by 19-year-old Ivana Fuso as they looked to add pace to their attacking game on the break as Birmingham began to commit more women forward in search of an equaliser.
The game was still well in United’s control, but frustration grew as they failed to kill it off heading into the final ten minutes. Substitute Fuso looked lively but her effort from the edge of the area when high over the bar.
That was until Ella Toone picked the ball up just outside the area, with a smart turn and strike hitting the left-hand post before bouncing into the back of then net to secure the three points for Casey Stoney’s side.
Lauren James is a handy false nine…
United using Lauren James as a false nine helps bring more of the team’s attacking options into the game against a low block. James drifted into several positions throughout the game and provided the link pass to allow runners to get in behind which ultimately won them the match through Leah Galton. It is something they should look to capitalise more often.
…Birmingham didn’t miss Rachel Corsie
Despite the loss of Rachel Corsie, Birmingham still look very compact at the back and have the creative options available to be able to continue to give the top teams in the division a tough test. It was always a concern that losing a player of the stature of Corsie would cause problems, but this game showed that their success is as much about Carla Ward’s system as it is about the players.
Leah Galton was the player that brought the quality required to break through in this one. On several occasions her movement opened up the Birmingham backline to provide goal scoring opportunities. Yes, she missed a couple of opportunities that she will be disappointed to have missed, but they wouldn’t have existed in the first place was it not for her opening up the space. Her goal won the game for United.