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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Ella Toone’s red card almost derails Manchester United WSL title hopes

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Ella Toone’s straight red card almost derailed Manchester United’s title hopes on Sunday, but they somehow clung onto three points at Tottenham Hotspur.United are top of the table moving into this international break, one point ahead after playing one more game than Chelsea, but things were close to going completely awry on their trip to north London after Toone lost her head.United had just gone 2-1 up at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, thanks to Molly Bartrip’s catastrophic own goal, but it was a nervy final few minutes due to Toone’s 80th-minute sending off for violent conduct.England midfielder Toone was frustrated by a quickly taken Tottenham throw in, and fouled Eveliina Summanen clumsily. Summanen, who was lying on the ground at this point, then seemed to try to trip her up and Toone saw red, shoving the Finnish international with both hands on the shoulder, pushing her onto her back.Summanen held her hands up to her face though and it took only a few moments for referee Amy Fearn to rightfully show Toone a straight red card – a rarity in the women’s game.The Lionesses star was booed off the pitch, but United manager Marc Skinner later defended her and criticised Summanen for “play-acting”. “It was play-acting in my opinion. There’s no need to roll around holding your face,” Skinner said. “You want to see passion for your club, it’s a foul, probably a yellow card. We have to be accountable for our actions of course and we’ll assess that within. But you just don’t need to roll around holding your face, that’s the part of the game I don’t want to come into our game. It’s a clear push on a shoulder. It’s just not a good sign from me.”No doubt [Toone] will bounce back. Thing we all love about Tooney is she is very real. Once we’re all calm, we’ll assess what happens and own our part. We shouldn’t scold something for showing passion. If it is violent act, we will assess but I want to see that fight in my team all the time because it is exciting.”In a social media post, Toone stated “I pride myself on the passion and love I have when playing for this club and I hold my hands up for my reaction and I’ll learn from it. Proud of the team.”With Manchester United down a player, Tottenham Hotspurs were pushing hard for an equaliser in the final 15 minutes of play, with England denied by Mary Earps and a number of searching crosses sent into the box. To Skinner’s relief though, his team managed to cling onto the win.  At this point in the season, every point feels crucial in the title race and anything other than a win at Tottenham would have put Chelsea firmly in the driving seat heading into the final third of the season.Emma Hayes and her team had their feet up this weekend (as this was a fixture postponed due to Queen Elizabeth’s death) but they could have finished the weekend as the outright league leaders without lifting a finger. Instead, the three points at Tottenham ensured United leapfrog Arsenal – who lost to Manchester City on Saturday – and they remain the team in the most likely position to challenge Hayes’s side for the league title.”We had to win today, that’s the pressure we set ourselves but we don’t expect anything, we have to earn it,” Skinner said. “Good to be top of the table but look at the teams. I love being back in this country because so many more twists to happen yet.”This was not a vintage United performance by any stretch. They had the best of the chances in the goalless first half, in particular Leah Galton’s disallowed offside goal, but Ashleigh Neville and Bethany England also almost combined for a goal in the first half for Tottenham. United’s Galton broke the stalemate in the 67th minute, controlling Ona Batlle’s cross and volleying from close range, and they looked to be on their way to a straightforward win. But then five minutes of chaos ensued, beginning with England’s equaliser. She made it three goals in three league appearances for her new club Tottenham when Mana Iwabuchi smartly took a quick free kick, threading the ball through to her on the break. Her classy finish put her fourth in the all-time WSL goalscorer list, but her celebrations were cruelly cut short just seconds after the restart when Molly Bartrip lunged the ball into the top of her own net. Spurs manager Rehanne Skinner stood with her arms crossed and watched on as the pressure on her career at the club went up another notch. It was her side’s seventh WSL loss in a row, keeping them ninth in the table and extending their unwanted record for the longest losing run in league history. This was some of the best football Spurs had probably played all season, but yet again they finished the match empty-handed. Skinner said post-match that she was “confident” results are on their way though, but the immediate future does not offer much hope. After the upcoming international break, two of their next three games are against top four opponents Manchester City and Arsenal.Match detailsTottenham Hotspur Women (5-4-1):Korpela 6; Bizet 9 (Ayane 69), Turner 7 (James 82), Bartrip 4, Zadorsky 7, Harrop 5; Iwabuchi 8, Summanen 7, Spence 5, Neville 8; England 9.Subs not used: Spencer (g), Karczewska, Ale, Ubogagu. Booked Spence, Summanen.Manchester United Women (4-2-3-1):Earps 7; Le Tissier 6, Blundell 7, Turner 7, Batlle 9; Ladd 6 (Boe Risa 68), Zelem 7; Parris 6 (Garcia 68), Toone 6, Galton 8 (Thomas 92); Russo 7 (Willams 82).Subs not used: Baggaley (g), Thorisdottir, Mannion, Tounkara, CascarinoRed cards:TooneReferee:Amy Fearn (Leicestershire)

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