Manchester United made it four wins from four at the start of the WSL by grinding out a narrow 1-0 victory over Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.
Nikita Parris scored her first WSL goal for the club – and her first from open play in the WSL since leaving Manchester City in 2019 – with a first half header. But United were ultimately unable to build on that lead, thereby missing the chance to go back above Arsenal at the top of table.
Mary Earps was in the right place to easily save from Leicester’s Jemma Purfield early on, but the first real clear chance went the way of the visitors. Ella Toone had the vision to play in the overlapping Hannah Blundell, who was just unable to lift the ball over Kirstie Levell.
Parris, whose movement against Brighton had been key to creating attacking space for others, misdirected a good headed chance early on. But she made up for that before half-time when she flicked a pinpoint Katie Zelem free-kick beyond Levell to break the deadlock.
United, having often given away 1-0 leads away from home last season, had a nervy moment early in the second half when Mary Earps raced out of her goal but struggled to clear. Leicester players were not in the right place to capitalise. Earps was again in action almost straight after, spectacularly parrying a half volley from Josie Green to safety.
The Foxes, who had struggled to compete in the first half, were having their best spell in the early stages of the second, mirroring Brighton’s brief upsurge against United immediately after the interval a week ago. United had weathered the storm on that occasion and did so again here.
As Lydia Bedford held firm with her Leicester selection, Marc Skinner made a flurry of changes at the hour mark to try and freshen things up in attacking areas.
The level of creativity from the visitors had dropped, but Leicester almost dropped themselves in it was a cheap giveaway that presented Toone with a glorious chance. Foxes skipper Ashleigh Plumptre got back just in time to deflect the shot wide.
United began to build towards the end as they sought some breathing space, but Leicester continued to hold firm without offering much more threat of their own.
GK: Kirstie Levell – 6/10 – Made a good early save to deny Blundell.
CB: Sophie Howard – 5/10 – A couple of early fouls left her walking a tightrope on a yellow for a long time.
CB: Sam Tierney – 6/10 – Did alright under pressure.
CB: Ashleigh Plumptre (c) – 7/10 – Looked decent on the ball but another whose defensive job was made harder by a first half yellow card. Kept Leicester in it with a crucial late block.
RM: Erin Simon – 6/10 – Most of her work had to be defensive with the dual threat of Galton and Blundell down that side.
CM: Molly Pike – 5/10 – Hardly saw the ball. Didn’t win her tackles.
CM: Aileen Whelan – 6/10 – It was tough spending so much of the afternoon without the ball but competed as best she could.
CM: Josie Green – 6/10 – Forced Earps into a top class save in a rare Leicester chance.
LM: Jemma Purfield – 6/10 – Had the first chance of the game from either side. Chief set-piece taker.
ST: Missy Goodwin – 5/10 – Looked like she had potential to be a threat but was too inconsistent in terms of her involvement in play.
ST: Natasha Flint – 5/10 – Worked hard off the ball but it was a thankless task when her teammates were not able to create for her.
SUB: Ava Baker (71′ for Goodwin) – 5/10
SUB: CJ Bott (84′ for Flint) – 6/10
SUB: Connie Scofield (84′ for Green) – N/A
Manager: Lydia Bedford – 6/10 – Kept faith with her starters until injury forced the first change. To be fair, Leicester were never out of it.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Made a top quality and vital save at 1-0 almost straight after a rare hairy moment.
RB: Maria Thorisdottir – 6/10 – Understandably not as dynamic as the absent Ona Batlle. Defensively sound, though.
CB: Maya Le Tissier – 7/10 – Her ability to spray long passes was as obvious as her defensive qualities.
CB: Millie Turner – 6/10 – Comfortable on the ball and can be satisfied with another clean sheet.
LB: Hannah Blundell – 6/10 – Probably should have opened the scoring early on but lacked the composure in the key moment.
CM: Lucy Staniforth – 6/10 – Showed good energy in midfield to justify her second successive start.
CM: Katie Zelem (c) – 7/10 – Set piece delivery remained excellent and United looked better when she had chance to get on the ball.
AM: Ella Toone – 7/10 – Intelligent link up play saw her create several chances. Could have made it comfortable it late on.
RW: Lucia Garcia – 7/10 – Bright from the start as has been the case all season. Pressed well out of possession.
ST: Nikita Parris – 7/10 – Missed a good early chance but soon scored her first WSL goal for the club. Decent movement again.
LW: Leah Galton – 6/10 – Had a quieter game than a week ago. Finished the match at left-back again after Blundell went off.
SUB: Martha Thomas (60′ for Blundell) – 5/10
SUB: Rachel Williams (61′ or Garcia) – 6/10
SUB: Hayley Ladd (61′ for Staniforth) – 6/10
SUB: Jade Moore (90+2′ for Thorisdottir) – N/A
Manager: Marc Skinner – 6/10 – Went with changes relatively early in the second half to freshen things up. Will demand more from his players over the way the momentum petered out in the second half.
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