Marc Skinner’s Manchester United picked up a nervous yet key 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in London in a game which heated up at the very end, but the Reds returned to the top of the league table.
Amidst criticism surrounding Skinner and his habit of not rotating his side and a misfiring attack, United had failed to make chances pay in the goalless draw against Everton. The Reds remained largely unchanged from the tie against the Toffees as Nikita Parris stepped in for Lucia Garcia on the right flank.
In what turned out to be a rather close game at the end, United had begun quickly and used slick movement across the frontline in an attempt to catch Spurs off-guard. They also dominated possession, even though no clear cut chances fell their way early on.
In the 15th minute, United had their first chance to take the lead and the move was a great one. After being handed possession by Mary Earps, Katie Zelem set through Alessia Russo, who played Ella Toone in. Toone managed to play a good ball in-behind to Leah Galton but the in-form United forward’s went over the bar.
Galton did have the ball in the back of the net in the 22nd minute but when Ona Batlle was crossing over to her at the back post, she was just offside and the goal was chalked off.
But it was Spurs who had a golden chance to take the lead a minute later. Ashleigh Neville managed to set up Bethany England down the left, but the Spurs forward sailed her shot over. It was the best chance of the game till then.
Spurs could not create many chances or opportunities for the remainder of the half. The same was also true for United, who could not muster much in the final third despite the presence of both Toone and Russo higher up the pitch.
In the beginning of the second half, United had a chance to take the lead. While in a tight spot down the left, Galton was looking to play in Parris at the back post but decided to take a shot which hit the side-netting.
The Reds had another chance from a tight angle some minutes later and it was Ella Toone who hit the post from the right after a good combination with Parris. United did improve in the final third in the second half and the intensity did increase and a goal did come in the 66th minute.
Galton, who had come closest to scoring earlier, found the back of the net after Ona Batlle had done some excellent work on the right-flank and while her cross was meant for Russo, it fell for Galton and was fired into the back of the net.
But the lead didn’t last long, as England’s impressive hit brought Spurs level. The Lilywhites had taken a free-kick from deep quickly and United were caught slightly off-guard as England dribbled her way to the left flank rather comfortably. After cutting inside, she finished really well to finish past Mary Earps and break United hearts.
But just when it seemed as if United could drop points for the second weekend running, Skinner’s side got a goal right from kick-off. Zelem, from the kick-off spot, played an excellent pass for substitute Lucia Garcia on the right and while the Spanish forward’s low cross was an attempt to find Galton at the back-post, confusion inside the box led to Molly Bartrip deflecting the ball into her own net.
The late drama didn’t end there though. Tempers flared as Eveliina Summanen was fouled by Toone but the Spurs player had hit out with her leg in frustration. Toone retaliated, pushing Summanen’s head into the ground. Controversially enough, Toone was sent off for her actions and United were left to be down to ten men.
Despite the nerves, United managed to keep Spurs at bay till the end of five minutes of stoppage time and retook the spot at the top of the WSL table. While it might prove to be temporary as Chelsea will have a game in hand, but the Blues do not play a league game till the first week of March and that is why the win in London could prove vital for United in the long-term.