Manchester United dropped points for the second time in the Super League, as a resolute Leicester City side held them to a 1-1 draw at Leigh Sports Village.
The Reds came into the game at the back of a satisfying 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain, against whom summer signing Melvine Malard had found the back of the net after Marc Skinner’s side had gone down early in the 2nd half.
Malard was rewarded with a start on the left wing on Sunday, as Lucia Garcia started on the right and Nikita Parris started upfront. Hinata Miyazawa started at number ten, ahead of the usual midfield duo of Katie Zelem and Hayley Ladd. Gabby George started at left back, with Hannah Blundell starting at right-back.
Unfortunately for George, the summer signing picked up what looked like a knee injury and she was forced off early in the first half. Blundell reverted playing at left back, with Jayde Riviere coming in for George.
Leicester were, as they usually like to, looking to play with a higher defensive line. But United were constantly trying to catch them off guard in that regard.
After the 10th minute, Maya Le Tissier’s terrific long ball fell to Parris, but her left footed shot was weak and was straight at the Leicester City goalkeeper Janina Leitzig. This chance had come just when the Foxes bad begun to impose themselves on the pitch, managing to get two shots on target.
Parris had another chance to put United in front, as Mellard had done well to put the United forward in-behind. But Parris’ effort was tame once again and it was straight at Leitzig, who only had to parry it with her feet.
Another United break away came after a long ball in behind fell to Parris, who played in Garcia. But the Spaniard’s shot was blocked and when the ball fell to Zelem, her shot was parried away by Leitzig.
Just before halftime, United had the biggest chance of the game. It came from a long ball in behind as well but Miyazawa struck the upper side of the post, as the chance went begging. But the pattern was clear, United were constantly trying to kill Leicester’s high defensive line with longer balls in behind.
A brilliant chance fell United’s way in the 6th minute of added time in the first half, but Garcia’s near post shot was saved by Leitzig.
As United struggled to break Leicester down, it was the Foxes who took the lead. And it came from a set piece and it was ironic since United usually look very threatening from set pieces of their own.
A delivery from the right by the Foxes took a touch and fell to Aileen Whelan, who was free down the back post and she finished at the far post to hand Leicester the lead.
But United weren’t behind for too long, and made their mark from the set piece. Zelem’s corner was perfect and Le Tissier’s near post header went towards the back post to beat Leitzig rather comfortably. The much needed instant response arrived.
Leicester had an excellent opportunity to take the lead again in the 72nd minute but after Riviere made a brilliant block to prevent Cayman, Lena Petermann’s shot was saved well by Earps to keep the scoreline at 1-1.
United had a key chance on the cusp of 90 minutes but Blundell, who was teed off by Ladd, had her shot go right at Leitzig. Despite their dominance in possession, United struggled to create clear cut chances and that was perhaps a reflection of the game in general.
The draw left United at fifth in the table, with five points on the board and leaving them with a lot to improve on. A midweek trip to Paris means there’s not much of a break either before their next WSL match at Everton next Sunday.