The Manchester City and England players Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp were seen cupping their ears, slapping their badges, and sliding on their knees in a defeat against rivals in a derby match. These images will surely linger in the minds of the Old Trafford audience.
Manchester United’s manager, Marc Skinner, stated that they received what they deserved. He believes that the team did not perform well enough as a whole and that they win and lose as a team.
The United team scored a goal thanks to Katie Zelem’s penalty, which was awarded after a handball by their previous captain Alex Greenwood. They also believed that they should have had another goal, but it was incorrectly ruled out because the ball may have gone out of bounds. The replays were not clear on whether the ball had completely crossed the line.
However, within a span of a minute, Jill Roord scored two goals with the help of Kelly, followed by a goal from Hemp, causing United to suffer their first loss in the Women’s Super League and lifting City out of their recent struggles and above their opponents. In the second half, Khadija Shaw added a third goal for City by blocking goalkeeper Mary Earps’s clearance, but City’s Laia Aleixandri was later sent off with a second yellow card for a senseless foul on Lucía García.
Manchester United have been anticipating a derby match at Old Trafford until the difference in performance between them and their rivals, the 2016 WSL champions and consistent competitors, narrowed down. They have previously played four times at Old Trafford, facing West Ham twice, Everton, and Aston Villa. However, this record was surpassed with a crowd of 43,615 fans in attendance on Sunday when they hosted City, setting a new attendance record for the club.
The Red Devils have a strong history of success against City at home, with two draws and one win at Leigh Sports Village before facing them at Old Trafford. Their first victory over City came in May of last year, allowing them to finish ahead of their rivals for the first time.
Before this game, City had suffered two consecutive losses – first against Arsenal and then against Brighton – which put their hopes of winning the title in jeopardy. No team has ever lost three games and gone on to win the WSL title.
Gareth Taylor, the City manager, stated that the outcome was significant. He also added that this match would boost the team’s confidence and potentially serve as a launching pad for future success.
Taylor expressed his philosophical perspective on performances and results, stating that if their team did not win the game, he would not let it affect him for an extended period of time.
The ongoing story of a power shift in Manchester was further confirmed by United’s first game. In the midst of a fast-paced and energetic match, Melvine Malard made a run and took a shot at the goal, but it hit Greenwood’s extended arm. Zelem made a powerful penalty kick, despite Keating getting a hand on it, the force was too much for her to handle.
After ten minutes, United was presented with a prime chance to increase their lead when Geyse retrieved the ball at the edge of the field and took a shot, but the ball was deemed to have gone out of bounds. The WSL does not have VAR, and multiple replays could not determine if it had crossed the goal line.
Skinner acknowledged the disallowed goal and stated that perhaps if the pass had been made earlier, it would have resulted in a goal. He also mentioned that as a team, they did not perform at their usual level tonight.
The story is not always straightforward and, although the competition between the Manchester teams is becoming closer, this match demonstrated that any changes in momentum take time and two goals in 79 seconds undoubtedly shifted things in City’s favor.
Initially, Kelly defeated Lisa Naalsund on the left side and then passed a low cross to Roord in the center. Roord, a Dutch forward, shot through the legs of Millie Turner for a goal. The lead was secured just 16 seconds after the game resumed. Shaw’s first attempt was blocked when Zelem lost possession near the penalty area. However, the City forward managed to pass the ball to Hemp, who struck it into the top corner for a goal.
Shaw delivered the final blow by intercepting Le Tissier’s pass and deflecting Earps’s attempted clearance into the goal, leaving the keeper helpless as the ball went into the open net.
City put themselves in trouble, though, Aleixandri pulling back the substitute García, collecting a second yellow and City’s fourth red card in seven league games. But this was a gutsy City performance, a resilient one, and the club captain, Steph Houghton, arrived off the bench to marshal them to safety.