From Leigh Sports Village - Manchester United re-established their three point lead over Manchester City in the WSL table, albeit having played a game more, thanks to a single second half goal from Leah Galton in a tight game against Brighton.
The hosts dominated the early stages in terms of possession but couldn’t take their earliest chances. Alessia Russo landed a header on the roof of the net, while Ella Toone was denied by stand-in Brighton goalkeeper Katie Startup after controlling the ball incredibly well.
A desperate stretch from Danique Kerkdijk had also cut out Martha Thomas’ cross when Toone was waiting for a tap-in in the middle of the penalty area. Maya Le Tissier’s heroic saving tackle also stopped Galton from breaking clear on a counter.
Brighton’s first real foray forward more than 20 minutes in saw the ball turned away at the far post after Julia Zigiotti had failed to make contact with a teasing cross from the left.
On her landmark 100th appearance, Toone’s bursts forward were causing problems for the Seagulls, latching onto a through ball at the half hour mark but not managing to hook it over Startup. In the closing stages of the first half, Martha Thomas was also dismayed not to be awarded a penalty when she went down under pressure in the area. ‘Why?!’ she cried at the referee.
Russo powered a low header at goal soon after the restart that was smothered by Startup. But despite United continuing to get into decent positions an hour in, the quality of final ball was lacking and Brighton were only too happy to keep knocking it away.
Galton’s breakthrough midway through the second half was the result of an unfortunate mistake from Startup. The United winger was played in expertly by Toone inside the otherwise impressive Maya Le Tissier, but the low shot was a weak one and should have been saved. Instead, it crept through the goalkeeper’s grasp and trickled into the far corner.
Brighton looked for a way back into it and at one stage looked to have an overload on the counter attack, but they couldn’t make the most of it. It was still the hosts who looked more likely to get another as Thomas’ searching effort brushed the far post as it narrowly missed the target. A second Startup fumble, this time from a Thomas shot, also had to scrambled off the line by Victoria Williams.
Brighton repeatedly punted the ball into the penalty area in stoppage time and a desperately late header briefly threatened to wrong foot Mary Earps, but they couldn’t find a way through.
Man Utd player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Mary Earps (GK) - 6/10 - Largely a spectator. An important claim under pressure in the first half and late save was the most important thing she did.
Ona Batlle (RB) - 7/10 - Got forward at every opportunity. A major threat.
Hayley Ladd (CB) - 7/10 - No problems from a defensive point of view. Her ability on the ball as a midfielder by trade also benefitted the team.
Maria Thorisdottir (CB) - 6/10 - Given a lot of time on the ball to try and pick passes forward as Brighton looked to contain United.
Hannah Blundell (LB) - 6/10 - Had a quieter game than fans are used to, although a vital interception late on quashed a dangerous Brighton counter.
Katie Zelem (CM) - 6/10 - Competed for the ball well in midfield and won a number of headers. Passed well, both short and long.
Jackie Groenen (CM) - 6/10 - Covered so much ground all over the pitch. Also had a few efforts at goal that were blocked or missed the target.
Ella Toone (AM) - 8/10 - Played in Galton for the United goal. Made a number of intelligent bursts, yet denied a goal on her landmark century appearance by a top early save.
Martha Thomas (RW) - 7/10 - Had a first half penalty appeal turned down. Also brushed the outside of the post at 1-0 and saw one hacked off the line.
Alessia Russo (ST) - 7/10 - Led the line as a 'number nine' but drifted all over the attacking third to great effect. Went close with a couple of headers.
Leah Galton (LW) - 7/10 - Always showed promise but struggled to make a telling impact until her shot squirmed into the net to break the deadlock.
Kirsty Hanson (RW) - 6/10
Vilde Boe Risa (CM) - 6/10
Jade Moore (CM) - 6/10
Brighton player ratings
5. Goalkeeper & defenders
Katie Startup (GK) - 4/10 - Made a big save from Ella Toone early on and was often on her toes to rush out to through balls. But it was her mistake that also saw the Seagulls go behind and she was later almost punished again.
Maya Le Tissier (RB) - 6/10 - Had acquitted herself well against Galton's pace, yet the first time she was properly beaten it led to the decisive breakthrough goal.
Danique Kerkdijk (CB) - 6/10 - Turned the ball away with a crucial intervention early on. Arguably second best in the physical battle with Russo, though.
Victoria Williams (CB) - 7/10 - Communicated really well and led her defence. Cleared one off the line towards the end to rescue her goalkeeper.
Emma Kullberg (LB) - 5/10 - Spun a few times by Thomas in the first half. Didn't reappear for the second half but hadn't done badly overall.
Emma Koivisto (RM) - 5/10 - Yellow carded in the first half. Showed desire to get forward and support in attack.
Aileen Whelan (CM) - 6/10 - Moved to the left in the second half. Always had to keep an eye on Batlle over her shoulder.
Julia Zigiotti (AM) - 5/10 - Had to drop really deep to try and affect the game from open play.
Emily Simpkins (CM) - 6/10 - Contained United pretty well in midfield. Withdrawn early in the second half, perhaps to ensure energy stayed high.
Felicity Gibbons (LM) - 6/10 - Brighton's best route forward in the first half. Dropped back into a deeper role after a half-time reshuffle.
Lee Geum-min (ST) - 4/10 - Had to do a lot of chasing without the ball but wasn't really a threat when it came her way.
Megan Connolly (CM) - 5/10
Libby Bance CM) - 6/10
Maisie Symonds (LM) - 5/10
Kayleigh Green (ST) - 6/10
Ellie Brazil (RM) - 5/10
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