Manchester United women have made it through to the semi-final of the Continental Cup after clinching a narrow victory over Women’s Super League leaders Arsenal.
Arsenal started the half well, their high pressing keeping United’s defence on their toes but it was also clear that the Reds were here to fight for that semi-final spot too.
The first chance came for Arsenal inside ten minutes. A great ball was fired across the face of goal and Miedema was sliding in, but she couldn’t make the connection.
Another chance came moments later when the ball ran through to Paris who was waiting at the back post but she miss-timed her kick and missed the ball – relief for the Reds.
It wasn’t all the home side though, Katie Zelem had a couple of chances, the first from a free-kick and the second from just outside the box but it was tame and nestled comfortably into the keepers hands.
Arsenal came again but United won the ball and launched a lovely counter attack which culminated in Ella Toone having her first shot after a brilliant run, but a deflection carried it just wide.
United were forced into an early substitution as Hanson picked up a knock, she tried to push on but found herself suffering again in the 34th minute. She made way for Ivana Fuso.
Arsenal looked to be growing into the game but United’s defence held firm and again Galton and Toone linked up for an opportunity at the other end on the stroke of half time but it was deflected over.
There was nothing to separate the sides at half time but it was United who came out fighting in the second half.
A number of half chances came in the opening five minutes of the second half including a free kick that Millie Turner got her head to but it was too high.
The game was getting tense, a high challenge from Thomas resulted in a yellow for the striker with both head coaches also being shown a card. As Jonas Eidevall got in the faces of the United players, Marc Skinner leapt to their defence.
Meanwhile, Arsenal gave debuts to their new signings Stina Blackstenius and Weinroither whilst ex-United player and World cup winner Tobin Heath also came on for the Gunners.
United were on the back foot but they bode their time and launched a counter-attack beginning with Ella Toone. She played a perfectly weighted pass into Fuso who laid it off to Zelem. Vilde Boe Risa was arriving at the edge of the box and her shot went through Jen Beattie’s legs and scuffed the outside of the post.
It was Manchester United who made the breakthrough in the 85th minute, a brilliant free-kick from captain Katie Zelem was delivered into the danger area and Alessia Russo was there with a looping header into the back of the net.
It would be a nervy five minutes for United and their fans as Arsenal were desperate to get themselves back on level terms, launching attack after attack. It was the subs who were threatening the most, could United hold on and see this victory out?
With seven minutes injury time added on, United’s defence was tested like never before. Alive to the danger, Toone and Russo played their part in defending their lead too.
The final whistle blew, an unlikely victory for the Reds sees them into the semi-final of the Continental Cup and you could see what it meant to them as relief and joy swept through the team.
The turnaround in recent weeks has seen Marc Skinner’s side blossom and now they are serious contenders for a trophy this year.
Team: Baggaley, Zelem, Mannion, Blundell, Thorisdottir, Turner, Hanson (Fuso 34), Galton (Batlle 75), Thomas (Russo 75), Toone, Ladd (Boe Risa 75)