From Leigh Sports Village – Manchester United secured their first WSL win since January as they put in a dominant performance against a recently resurgent Leicester led by February manager of the month Lydia Bedford.
Martha Thomas and Alessia Russo each scored in the first half to give United a commanding lead, while Katie Zelem remarkably scored twice direct from a corner in quick succession after the interval, having already done it once against Manchester City last time out.
Looking to resurrect the outstanding first half performance from last weekend’s FA Cup derby, United started with the same XI and at a fast tempo. As such, flowing early moves saw Leah Galton and Ella Toone both threaten without testing Foxes goalkeeper Demi Lambourne.
Russo, back in a central role, was linking up play well, while Ona Batlle was covering an incredible amount of ground from right-back. It was the Spaniard whose burst forward created the opening goal when she was able to pull the ball back to Thomas to score.
Thomas soon had the chance to double her tally and United’s lead when Lambourne was caught out of position but fired wide across the goal. Russo did double that lead when Toone, who had split Leicester’s defence for the opening goal, recycled a corner and crossed for her teammate to head in. Only an acrobatic save from Lambourne stopped it being 3-0 by half-time.
By the break, Leicester had been forced to feed off scraps going forward, with their fleeting best moments coming from wide areas. Jemma Purfield tested Mary Earps with a low shot just before the interval, while Freya Gregory sparked into a bit of life as well.
Galton missed the target with a few of chances soon after the break, including a flicked header, but United extended the lead to 3-0 when Zelem’s in-swinging corner proved impossible for Leicester to deal with and nestled in the far corner just as it had last weekend. Incredibly, the skipper repeated the feat only a few minutes later, exploiting exactly the same weakness.
Lambourne still needed to sharp to keep the score-line down, saving from substitute Ivana Ferreira Fuso, who also had another late effort deflected just over, while new Leicester signing Catherine Bott denied Russo what would have been a certain fifth goal with a goal-line block.
Mary Earps (GK) – 6/10 – Always barking instruction at her teammates. Had fairly little to do herself.
Ona Batlle (RB) – 8/10 – Defended on the front foot and got forward at will. Assisted the opening goal with a trademark burst forward.
Maria Thorisdottir (CB) – 6/10 – Always looked in control of situations despite Flint sniffing around for any mistakes.
Diane Caldwell (CB) – 6/10 – Ended up one-on-one with Gregory a few times but stood up her opponent well.
Hannah Blundell (LB) – 6/10 – Forced a top save from Lambourne at the end of the first half. Never really had an issue defensively.
Katie Zelem (CM) – 7/10 – Scored direct from a corner again. It was her defence-splitting pass that had helped win the corner in the first place. Had been quiet in the first half.
Jackie Groenen (CM) – 6/10 – Worked really hard out of possession.
Ella Toone (AM) – 9/10 – Drifted into space in the ‘number 10’ role and was pulling the attacking strings. Created the opening for the first goal and assisted the second.
Martha Thomas (RW) – 7/10 – Keen to ghost in off the flank and that movement gave her the early opener.
Alessia Russo (ST) – 8/10 – Back in a central role after recent stints on the right and it seemed to suit her game better as a ‘number nine’. Scored a header as if to underline that point.
Leah Galton (LW) – 5/10 – Posed a danger but couldn’t hit the target with several chances that came her way – some harder than others.
Ivana Ferreira Fuso (RW) – 7/10 – Impressive appearance off the bench.
Vilde Boe Risa (CM) – 6/10 – Slotted into central midfield.
Kirsty Hanson (LW) – 5/10 – Offered fresh energy on the flank.
Martha Harris (RB) – 6/10 – Important minutes under her belt.
Demi Lambourne (GK) – 6/10 – Sharp off her line, although it didn’t always work out for her. Produced a a few good saves and high claims as well. Getting beaten by two direct corners was poor though.
Sophie Howard (CB) – 4/10 – Given the run around and gave the ball away plenty as well.
Abbie McManus (CB) – 5/10 – Found it tough against her former club but made a few key interventions that could have prevented goals.
Sam Tierney (CB) – 5/10 – Passed the ball reasonably well but didn’t win her duels on the ground when it mattered most. Good late block.
Esmee de Graaf (RWB) – 4/10 – Had no choice but to work hard chasing the ball but didn’t really get a reward for it.
Sophie Barker (CM) – 4/10 – Not bad on the ball but saw so little of it and spent a lot of time chasing shadows.
Molly Pike (CM) – 4/10 – It was a similar to Barker’s experience. United were too good and too quick in central areas to even give her a chance.
Jemma Purfield (LWB) – 5/10 – Pinned in by Batlle and it limited her own game. But had Leicester’s best effort of the first half.
Shannon O’Brien (RF) – 6/10 – Showed promise when she could drive forward. Also did her defensive duties by tracking Blundell.
Natasha Flint (ST) – 5/10 – Found herself engaged in quite a physical battle with United’s centre-backs. Came off soon after taking a knock.
Freya Gregory (LF) – 6/10 – Looked frustrated chasing lost causes to begin with but grew into the game after that and was probably her team’s most consistent threat overall. Faded in the second half.
Catherine Bott (CB) – 5/10 – Immediate debut after arriving at the club only a few days ago. Her crucial late block denied United another goal.
Missy Goodwin (ST) – 4/10 – Struggled to make an impact as the game was already long gone.