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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal: Spoils shared in Reds’ first big WSL matchup

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Manchester United drew 2-2 against Arsenal in FA Women’s Super League play on Friday night, coming from behind to take the lead but conceding in stoppage time to split the points. It was a thrilling second half between the two powers in English football, but one in which both teams will regret missed chances to take all three points.

Marc Skinner sent out an unchanged XI from the side that came back to win 2-1 at Villa Park last Sunday, an unsurprising move from a manager with the same XI for 19 of 22 FA WSL matches last season.

Arsenal started on the front foot, though not exactly in control of things. They didn’t even look particularly comfortable, but they did find the lead early through a brilliant goal from Stina Blackstenius. The Swedish forward found plenty of space behind Hannah Blundell on the end of a through ball, angling her run to cut off the right back and isolate Mary Earps, who was helpless to prevent the quality finish.

The goal seemed to settle United a bit, and they largely controlled possession for the remainder of the first half with nearly 60% of the ball. They found an equalizer in the 27th minute thanks to a poor goalkeeping moment from Sabrina D’Angelo, allowing Leah Galton a shot at an empty net.

Galton had been causing problems from the left as usual, but her intimidation of the Arsenal and Canada keeper was her standout moment of the half.

It was a welcome gift given the trouble United found breaking through Arsenal’s backline. They found themselves in the final third plenty of times, but miscommunication and poor decision making limited them to just two shots on goal.

Early in the second half United resumed their control of the ball, and Geyse nearly scored her first United goal. She found herself behind the defense down the right, firing from the angle and seeing her shot skip just past the far post. She had Galton running alongside her, but opted for the shot. Either option would have been difficult to thread.

The Reds lost control of the game for a bit as the Gunners brought on reinforcements and looked very threatening. Former United player Alessia Russo was denied twice by Mary Earps and a third time by the upright after forcing a shot through a crowd of defenders. It was a thrilling spell of play for Arsenal, but it was United who ended it with a goal. Their own subs gave the side a nice counter attacking threat, turning one such attack into a goal as debutant Melvine Malard charged through and got a foot to the ball just as the defender looked to clear it.

United’s 2-1 lead looked set to be the final score, with the Gunners struggling to find space to shoot from anywhere but outside of the box, but the spoils would be shared in the end after a spectacular hit by Cloe Lacasse in stoppage time.

United are currently atop the table after the first game of the weekend with four points, and now look to prepare for a big qualification matchup with Paris Saint-Germain next Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

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