From the Emirates Stadium: Manchester United ended Arsenal’s perfect start to the season to reaffirm their status as WSL title contenders with a breathless 3-2 comeback victory at the Emirates on Saturday evening.
United had been on course to suffer a second successive defeat to a fellow big four side following their 3-1 loss to Chelsea last time out. They trailed 2-1 with six minutes remaining after goals from Frida Maanum and Laura Wienroither had overturned Ella Toone’s first half opener.
But Millie Turner levelled in the 85th minute, before Alessia Russo headed home a dramatic winner in stoppage time to move the Red Devils back level on points with Arsenal at the WSL summit.
Despite being roared on by a partisan home crowd in north London, it was United who started brighter, the lively Leah Galton forcing Manuela Zinsberger into a stretching save after Russo had pinched possession deep inside the Arsenal half inside seven minutes.
Jordan Nobbs, more accustomed to having an impact at the opposite end of the pitch, was on hand to block a goal-bound Nikita Parris effort over the bar following a flowing United move, as the visitors continued to look the most likely side to open the scoring.
The breakthrough did come six minutes before half time. Hayley Ladd provided the surging overlap and deep cross, Zinsberger failed to claim the cross, and Toone arrived late at the back post to side foot volley home and give United a deserved first half lead.
Having hardly had a sniff of goal in the first period, the second was less than a minute old when Arsenal levelled the scores. Maanum picked up a loose ball inside her own half, surged at the retreating United backline and saw her low effort find the back of the net via a huge deflection off the unfortunate Maya Le Tissier.
Having turned in a much improved second half performance, Arsenal took the lead with 18 minutes remaining. Katie McCabe sent in a teasing cross from deep and Wienroither ghosted in at the back post to power home a sweetly-struck volley.
United had hardly threatened in the second 45, but drew level five minutes from time through Turner. The centre back rose highest to head Katie Zelem’s wicked set piece delivery in off the underside of the bar.
Buoyed by their leveller, United went in search of the winner, but were twice denied by a pair of superb Zinsberger saves in quick succession. The Arsenal keeper got down low to deny Lucia Garcia from point blank range, before stretching to keep out a Martha Thomas volley.
From the resulting corner, United did take the lead for a second time, Russo leaping to head home and cue scenes of mass delirium on the United bench and in the buoyant away end.
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Forced into a strong, stretching save inside seven minutes, tipping a Galton effort around the post. Flapped at Ladd’s cross as United opened the scoring, but atoned for her error with a superb save from point blank range to keep out Garcia and then Thomas.
RB: Laura Wienroither – 7/10 – Made a superb recovery tackle to prevent Galton surging through on goal in the first half, and had a real battle with United’s lively left winger. Gave Arsenal the lead with a late back post run and superb volley.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy – 6/10 – Brought the ball out from the back really calmly and and effectively, but appeared to be beaten in the air by Turner for United’s leveller.
CB: Steph Catley – 6/10 – Conceded possession in her own half in the build up to United’s opener. Did a good job on Russo between her and Wubben-Moy.
LB: Katie McCabe – 7/10 – Had a real heated battle with Parris. Provided the teasing delivery from which Arsenal took the lead, putting it on a plate for Wienroither.
CM: Lia Walti – 6/10 – Sent Blackstenius away with a great ball over the top in the first half. Typically cool, calm and composed.
CM: Jordan Nobbs (off 60′ for Miedema) – 6/10 – Blocked a goal-bound Parris effort in the first half and almost magnificently picked out Foord. Unable to really grasp the game by the scruff of the neck as she has done in recent weeks.
CM: Frida Maanum – 8/10 – Having been quiet in the first half, provided just what the Gunners had been missing instantly in the second, eating up the ground with a driving run as she levelled the scores via a big deflection.
RW: Beth Mead (off 90′ for Agyemang) – 6/10 – Nicked the ball off Parris in the build up to Arsenal’s equaliser. Otherwise largely quiet.
ST: Stina Blackstenius – 5/10 – Blazed over early in the second half and stretched the United backline with her constant runs in behind – but unable to have any huge attacking influence on proceedings.
LW: Caitlin Foord – 5/10 – Kept really quiet by Batlle and appeared to be beaten in the air by Russo for United’s third.
SUB: Vivianne Miedema (60′ for Nobbs) – 6/10
SUB: Michelle Agyemang (90′ for Mead) – N/A
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Couldn’t do much about either Arsenal goal and otherwise rarely tested.
RB: Ona Batlle – 8/10 – Did a good defensive job on Foord and got forward frequently in the first half. Limited in her attacking influence in the second.
CB: Maya Le Tissier – 6/10 – Unfortunate to see Maanum’s effort cannon off her and into the net for Arsenal’s equaliser. Between her and Turner, perhaps guilty of retreating too much in the build up to the goal.
CB: Millie Turner – 8/10 – Like Le Tissier, a little guilty of allowing Maanum to travel so far with the ball in the build up to the equaliser and failing to step out to intervene. Atoned by heading home United’s equaliser.
LB: Hannah Blundell – 7/10 – Sprayed play effectively on a couple of occasions in the first half and largely did a good defensive job on Mead.
CM: Katie Zelem – 9/10 – Kept the ball well in the first half. Provided the two teasing set piece deliveries from which United netted their second and third goals.
CM: Hayley Ladd – 7/10 – Provided the cross from which United opened the scoring after an overlapping run down the right.
AM: Ella Toone – 8/10 – Played in Galton with a trademark pass in the first half. Popped up at the back post to coolly side foot volley home United’s opener
RW: Nikita Parris (off 80′ for Thomas) – 6/10 – Saw a goal-bound effort deflected over in the first half. Won back possession in the build up to United’s opener, conceded possession in the build up to Arsenal’s equaliser. Had a really tenacious battle with McCabe.
ST: Alessia Russo – 8/10 – Fed Ladd in the build up to United opening the scoring. Otherwise had been really quiet. before heading United into the lead in stoppage time.
LW: Leah Galton (off 72′ for Garcia) – 7/10 – Called Zinsberger into action early doors from a tight angle, and looked United’s most dangerous player in the first half with her probing forays down the left. Forced off with injury in the second half.
SUB: Lucia Garcia (72′ for Galton) – 5/10 – Lost the run of Wienroither as Arsenal took the lead.
SUB: Martha Thomas (80′ for Parris) – 6/10