After a historic 2-0 win against West Ham United at Old Trafford last Saturday, Casey Stoney’s women were looking to bolster their bid for a top three finish with three points against sixth place Brighton.
However, the heroics of last weekend couldn’t be matched with what would be a frustrating one-nil loss for United with the only goal coming from Brighton’s Inessa Kaagman.
Brighton got the game underway, with the opening period seeing a number of efforts from both teams.
The first chance came in the fifth minute when Brighton’s Kayleigh Green made a magnificent burst down the left wing, forcing Thorrisdottir to make an interception and allow the home side a corner.
After getting on the score sheet last week, talented youngster Lauren James looked to be in fantastic form as her mazy runs were causing havoc for the home side’s defence. But a free-kick conceded by Rianna Jarret resulted in nothing and was cleared by Brighton.
In a scrappy start to the game, both teams couldn’t register any clear-cut chances until the twenty fourth minute when a Brighton free kick was swung deep into the United box, causing centre back Maria Thorrisdottir to concede a penalty due to an unfortunate handball and pick up the first yellow card of the day.
Keeping calm under pressure, Inessa Kaagman stepped up and slotted home from 12-yards with a thunderous strike into the top right-hand corner, leaving United keeper Earps with no chance. One nil to Brighton.
Pressing for an equaliser before the half-time break, United were throwing everything they could at the Brighton goal. In the thirty second minute, the Red Devils felt they should have scored when a penalty box scramble fell to the feet of Turner, who blazed her half-volleyed effort over the bar.
Lauren James’ impressive start was cut short due to an injury sustained in the thirty-sixth minute. She was replaced by Lucy Staniforth.
Soon after, a tricky passage of play down the right wing from Hanson was halted by a foul from Ellie Brazil, resulting in a yellow card for the Brighton number 16.
The in-swinging free-kick fell nicely to Millie Turner at the back post. However, she was unable to direct her effort towards goal, heading the ball high and wide. Another chance from which United will feel they should have scored.
The half time whistle brought a disappointing period to an end for the reds, one that probably should have produced a couple of goals for the Reds.
The second half got underway with Jessica Sigsworth making a decisive and penetrating run through the Brighton defence, however her right footed effort was saved by Brighton goalkeeper, Megan Walsh.
The United attacks continued in waves. Katie Zelem displayed fantastic skill and trickery to deceive the Brighton defence, but yet again her shot failed to trouble Walsh and the ball fell right into her outstretched arms.
Sitting back and absorbing the pressure, Brighton attempted to catch United on the break, with Rianna Jarrett carrying the ball to the right side of the penalty area, but her attempt trickled wide to the left with no power or direction.
The sixty-eighth minute saw the second change for the Reds, when Jane Ross replaced Ella Toone, hoping to bring a spark to the United attack.
Then, on the seventy-fifth minute, the momentum was once again disrupted when play was stopped to allow two ducks to take a leisurely Easter stroll along the Peoples Pension Stadium’s turf.
Play back underway, Brighton were looking to further their advantage when an underwhelming effort by Emma Koivisto was saved by Earps.
As the game progressed into the latter stages, United became desperate to get back into the game and Zelem struck the ball fiercely but without direction and the ball flew over Walsh’s goal.
Heading into six minutes of stoppage time, Zelem once again did everything she could to drag United back into the game. She got her head onto a fantastic cross by Lucy Staniforth but narrowly missed the target.
Casey Stoney made her third and final substitution of the match, bringing on Amy Turner who replaced Kirsty Hanson leading into the final minutes.
Unfortunately for the Reds, six minutes added time proved to be insufficient, as the game finished one nil to Brighton. An incredibly tough pill to swallow for the Reds, considering last week’s victory. United have now only won two of their last six Womens’ Super League matches.
Match Statistics and Details:
United: Earps, Harris, Thorisdottir, Turner, Batlle, Groenen, Zelem, Hanson, Toone, James, Sigswoth. Substitutes: Turner, Ross, Smith, Bentley, Jones, Bourne, Staniforth.
Brighton: Walsh, Koivisto, Le Tissier, Williams, Gibbons, Connolly, Kaagman, Green, Whelan, Brazil, Jarrett. Substitutes: Roe, Heroum, Simpkins, Symonds, Fiskerstrand, Olding, Bance, Startup.
Goals: Kaagman (Brighton) 25′
Bookings: Thorisdottir (Manchester United), Brazil (Brighton & Hove Albion).