Manchester United made it two consecutive wins at the start of the WSL season with an impressive performance against West Ham on the road to keep pace with Arsenal at the top of the table.
A quickfire double early in the second half decided the game, a first United goal from summer signing Lucia Garcia and one from left-back Hannah Blundell. Leah Galton also had the ball in the net in the goal-less first half but adjudged borderline offside. West Ham threatened in parts but were largely second best and ultimately couldn’t match the quality of their opponents.
The visitors completely dominated the early stages and Ona Batlle grazed the top of the bar from a crossing position after spotting goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold off her line. Moments later, a devilish Katie Zelem corner saw Kate Longhurst block the ball on the line.
The early combination between the direct Garcia and international teammate Batlle was causing West Ham plenty of problems and looked like it would be United’s best route through.
Arnold saved from both Alessia Russo and Blundell from distance as the first half progressed, but West Ham started to gain more of a foothold. Millie Turner even had to hook the ball away near the goal-line at one stage as the hosts built into a decent spell towards the end of the half.
Mary Earps also saved comfortably from Dagny Brynjarsdottir but expressed his displeasure with her defence after the chance had been presented by a poor clearance from Turner.
Turner actually had one of the best chances of the whole first half with the last touch of the first half, heading wide from inside the six-yard box. Early in the second half, the same player headed straight at Arnold to be denied again.
Garcia’s goal soon after that chance was nothing less than she deserved. The Spanish winger raced onto Le Tissier’s ball forward, shrugging off the attention of Hawa Cissoko, before rounding the onrushing Arnold and calmly finishing from a tight angle.
United were painfully pegged back with a stoppage time equaliser in this fixture last season but quickly doubled their lead with Blundell’s first time finish from Batlle’s smart cutback to the edge of the penalty area. Ella Toone had played a major part in helping create the chance.
There was still a warning sign from West Ham when Viviane Asseyi, a player largely starved of service, picked up a loose ball, rolled Turner and flashed a powerful low shot only just wide. West Ham also had a goal chalked off when defender Lucy Parker scored from an offside position, although it was initially allowed to stand amid some confusion.
Parker stopped Russo from making it 3-0 as the second half wore on, flying in to block a goal-bound strike, while Arnold’s fingertips spectacularly turned a Katie Zelem lob over the bar.
West Ham vs Man Utd: Player ratings - WSL
1. West Ham (4-2-3-1)
GK: Mackenzie Arnold - 7/10 - Showed good handling a number of times when under pressure at corners. Beaten twice but still made good saves.
RB: Risa Shimizu - 6/10 - Largely coped well wit Galton as the biggest threats came down the opposite flank.
CB: Lucy Parker - 6/10 - Tasked with playing out from the back more than her centre-back partner. A few good blocks and had a goal disallowed.
CB: Hawa Cissoko - 6/10 - Generally pretty good when faced with potentially dangerous one-on-one situations. But she couldn't match Garcia's strength for the first goal.
LB: Kirsty Smith - 5/10 - Had her hands full with Garcia against her old club.
CM: Kate Longhurst - 5/10 - Cleared off the line in the opening minutes. Struggled to compete in midfield.
CM: Dagny Brynjarsdottir (c) - 4/10 - Able to push further forward in the second after a quiet opening 45 minutes but still lacked much involvement.
RM: Lisa Evans - 6/10 - Swapped to the left midway through the first half where her defensive experience was needed.
AM: Honoka Hayashi - 4/10 - Really struggled to influence things and was sacrificed at half-time.
LM: Jessica Ziu - 5/10 - Found it difficult looking over her shoulder to track Batlle. Looked better after moving to the right but taken off after an hour.
ST: Viviane Asseyi - 6/10 - Forced to feed off scraps with West Ham struggling to create much in open play. Still posed a threat.
SUB: Abbey-Leigh Stringer (46' for Hayashi) - 6/10
SUB: Izzy Atkinson (59' for Ziu) - 6/10
SUB: Claudia Walker (68' for Evans) - 5/10
SUB: Halle Hussein (84' for ) - N/A
SUB: Thea Kyvag (84' for ) - N/A
Manager: Paul Konchesky - 5/10 - His team held their own in the first half, but he didn't have an answer when the visitors' quality took decisive hold.
2. Man Utd (4-3-3)
GK: Mary Earps - 6/10 - Didn't have to do that much.
RB: Ona Batlle - 9/10 - Played with her usual attacking intent and even grazed the bar early on. Assisted the crucial second goal.
CB: Maya Le Tissier - 7/10 - Showcased an impressive range of passing, which ultimately gave her an assist for the crucial breakthrough goal, and always looking to receive the ball. A couple of shaky defensive moments.
CB: Millie Turner - 6/10 - Missed a glorious headed chance right before half-time and was a constant threat from set-pieces. Not at her best defensively here.
LB: Hannah Blundell - 7/10 - Often overshadowed by Batlle but combined well with her opposite number to score a very good goal.
CM: Katie Zelem (c) - 7/10 - Set piece delivery was again excellent. Always looked in control with the ball in open play too.
CM: Hayley Ladd - 8/10 - Broke up play that gave United control in midfield.
AM: Ella Toone - 7/10 - Often involved in United's attacking play and made the opening for Batlle to set up the second goal.
RW: Lucia Garcia - 9/10 - Tested the Hammers from the start with pace and direct running. Her goal was very well taken and thoroughly deserved.
ST: Alessia Russo - 7/10 - Clearly a physical threat but also didn't limited herself to just playing 'between the posts' either. Worked hard.
LW: Leah Galton - 6/10 - Saw a first half strike disallowed by an offside flag.
SUB: Martha Thomas (80' for Russo) - 6/10
SUB: Jade Moore (80' for Toone) - 7/10
SUB: Adriana Leon (80' for Garcia) - 6/10
SUB: Nikita Parris (88' for Galton) - N/A
Manager: Marc Skinner - 8/10 - Resisted the temptation to make changes at half-time and was rewarded for his patience. Was then able to switch things up in the closing stages to get minutes for more of his squad.