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Friday, April 19, 2024

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Manchester United: Reds through to FA Cup Semis after top performance

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Manchester United Women are through to the FA Cup Semi-Finals after a comprehensive 4-0 win on the south coast against Brighton & Hove Albion. Marc Skinner’s team had been lacking in form before putting in arguably their best performance of the season, thrashing their hosts from the start and scoring three goals in the first half.

United were flying right out of the gate, circling the Brighton penalty area in search of the breakthrough. They only had to wait eight minutes.

Katie Zelem received the ball while scanning at the edge of the box and placed a cross right onto the head of Millie Turner, who obliged and placed it powerfully past her former teammate Sophie Baggaley to put United in front. It was a well-worked goal, but more than that a promising show of play from the Reds. Zelem hasn’t been herself really for the past few games, bar a few moments, but was at her best in terms of vision and delivery on this goal.

Unlike a few recent performances United kept up the pressure. Brighton struggled to play through the press and more than a few opportunities popped up for United. One such chance fell for Melvine Malard, who almost pulled off a Dele Alli move controlling and taking the ball down on the turn before firing a low strike. Baggaley was up for the save, but came under pressure just moments later. United quickly regained possession and worked the ball up the field quickly for Nikita Parris to smash home in the 17th minute for 2-0.

United’s control of the match was apparent throughout, and resulted in a third goal just before the break. Malard was sent through by Ella Toone and beat Baggaley at the near post, though the ball whacked off the post and spun onto the goal line. Luckily Lucia Garcia was on the scene to finish the move with a tap in, and the Reds went into halftime up 3-0.

The Reds picked up right where they left off after the restart with Malard nearly scoring again. Her presence in the box was such a threat to Brighton, and United wasted no opportunity to try and get the ball to her.

It was not Malard who added the fourth goal however, with Lisa Naalsund bagging her first to cap a nice performance in midfield. She cut in from the left side of the box and fired a strike perfectly through the crowd of Brighton defenders to beat Baggaley and provide some extra insurance for United.

The win was much-needed, and certainly one of the most complete performances this season. Perhaps the best since before the winter break. United just looked comfortable with Jayde Riviere back on the right with Hannah Blundell on the left, and Melvine Malard continues to show why she should play through the center.

The Reds will hope to continue this form and close the gap as much as possible between themselves and the top three, though Champions League football seems unlikely next year. Still, it’s important to take the positives where possible to get out of a funk, and United are onto the Semi-finals once again in the FA Cup.

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