From Old Trafford - Manchester United sealed a 3-1 comeback win over Everton in an historic WSL clash at Old Trafford, with Alessia Russo scoring twice with her head to underpin the result.
Claire Emslie’s early strike for the visitors was cancelled out by Russo’s header, who eventually made sure of the result with a late goal after Katie Zelem’s penalty.
Although buoyed by the crowd in the opening moments, the hosts were caught cold when Everton put together their first meaningful attack of the game. Emslie raced away down the right on the counter after being in by Kenza Dali and fired low into the bottom corner to silence Old Trafford.
Everton’s tactics of digging in defensively and looking to attack on the break were clear to see. It has already worked to produce the opening goal but they continued to look dangerous through Toni Duggan’s grit centrally an Emslie’s pace wide.
United’s first real chance of the game came as Martha Thomas hooked an effort goalward that was parried by Sandy MacIver. With pressure building, Ella Toone sent a teasing ball across the six-yard box a few minutes later that wasn’t met by one of her teammates.
United had by no means overwhelmed Everton by that stage, but the equaliser probably had been coming. Ona Batlle’s surging run from right-back and one-two created the space for her to cross, with Russo looping back over the head of MacIver.
The intent that Skinner’s side had shown towards the end of the first half was replicated in the second. Home-grown Toone had her dream moment to score but she got under a close-range half-volley and it comfortably cleared the cross bar.
United didn’t have to wait long after for the go-ahead goal, with Zelem calmly converting from the penalty spot after Everton substitute Lucy Graham had brought down Thomas in the box. Thomas then had the ball in the net herself as United turned the screw, but an offside flag ruled it out.
Having conceded a late equaliser against Everton back in November and dropped a number of points in similar fashion elsewhere this season, United finally got their two-goal cushion a few minutes from the end when Russo powered a second header into the net from a Zelem corner.
Man Utd player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Mary Earps (GK) - 6/10 - Had fairly little to do for most of the match, having stood little chance with the early goal.
Ona Batlle (RB) - 8/10 - Her burst forward created the equaliser, crossing for Russo to score. Always provided an out ball.
Maria Thorisdottir (CB) - 6/10 - Shown an early yellow card for her troubles attempting to deal with Duggan.
Hayley Ladd (CB) - 6/10 - Returned from injury in an unnatural position. Adapted a tough start.
Hannah Blundell (LB) - 5/10 - On her heels when Emslie raced clear to score early. Made to look sluggish by the winger, which is unusual.
Katie Zelem (CM) - 8/10 - Showed her usual composure from the penalty spot to put her team ahead for the first time. Assisted the third with a trademark corner.
Jackie Groenen (CM) - 6/10 - Linked up well with Batlle in the right channel, releasing the Spaniard to assist the equaliser.
Ella Toone (AM) - 8/10 - United's chief attacking threat, whether picking passes from deep or making the runs forward into channels herself. Missed a glorious chance to get a goal of her own.
Martha Thomas (RW) - 7/10 - Had United's first clear chance and started to make a consistently meaningful impact after a slow first 20 minutes. had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for an offside seconds before.
Alessia Russo (ST) - 9/10 - Looked really up for it and competed well physically. Got her reward with two great headed goal.
Leah Galton (LW) - 6/10 - Too quiet in the first half but made a brighter start to the second with her characteristic direct running.
Kirsty Hanson (RW) - 6/10 - Kept things fresh on the flank.
Jade Moore (CM) - 6/10 - An extra layer of protection late on.
Vilde Boe Risa (CM) - N/A
Signe Bruun (ST) - N/A
Everton player ratings
5. Goalkeeper & defenders
Sandy MacIver (GK) - 5/10 - Made a few saves but was helpless to stop any of the goals that went past her.
Danielle Turner (RB) - 5/10 - Kept Galton under wraps in the first half but was probably on the back foot in the second.
Nathalie Bjorn (CB) - 4/10 - Russo shook off her attentions too easily when the hosts equalised. Withdrawn at half-time for a tactical switch.
Megan Finnigan (CB) - 5/10 - Good with the ball at her feet but not commanding enough in her duels in the air or on the ground.
Gabrielle George (CB) - 7/10 - Booked for scything down Galton. Tried to make herself a physical force and played on the edge.
Poppy Pattinson (LB) - 6/10 - Started well but began to struggle against Batlle and Thomas from the end of the first half onwards. Fatigue crept in.
Claire Emslie (RM) - 8/10 - Stunned the vocal home support with an early goal of top quality. Showed real composure in the moment. Her pace made her a huge source of danger throughout.
Aurora Galli (CM) - 5/10 - Struggled to gain a foothold after the hosts started to exert more control in the game.
Izzy Christiansen (CM) - 5/10 - Her short passes were good, although she couldn't make a link with Duggan count through the middle.
Kenza Dali (LM) - 6/10 - Had the vision to carve United open and her guile was clear to see, but faded badly from the game.
Toni Duggan (ST) - 6/10 - Impressed leading the line as a sole striker. But her afternoon came to a premature end soon after a second half knock.
Lucy Graham (LM) - 4/10 - Gave away the crucial penalty after mis-controlling and clipping Thomas as she stretched to recover.
Simone Magill (ST) - 4/10 - No service to get into the game.
Hanna Bennison (AM) - 5/10 - Good touches but off the pace overall.