With nine matches left to play in their season, Manchester United will end the month top of the Women’s Super League after maintaining their unbeaten away record by winning away to Tottenham Hotspur in front of 30,000 fans in a fractious game in North London.
Playing in a round of fixtures initially scheduled to kick-start the season at the beginning of September which were postponed following the passing of British monarch Queen Elizabeth II, Manchester United took full advantage of the fact Chelsea did not have a match to leapfrog the champions, who have played one game less.
United dominated possession from the start against a Spurs side who had lost their previous four league matches at home but failed to carve out many clear scoring opportunities in the first half. Leah Galton raced through after a quarter of an hour but shot high under pressure from Spurs captain Shelina Zadorsky, before she then had a header disallowed on a marginal offside call. Spurs immediately went down the other end and worked the best opening of the first half, record signing Beth England blazing the chance over the bar and failing to work England goalkeeper Mary Earps.
Manchester United upped the tempo in the second half and began to create chances at will. After Katie Zelem went close with a free kick, Alessia Russo turned cleverly in the area before shooting narrowly wide before Ella Toone raced clear down the right flank and hit a cross-shot which came back out off the far post. The breakthrough finally came in the 67th minute when the ball dropped to Galton in the penalty area following a right-wing cross. She had time to bring the ball down and smash it high into the net with her weaker right foot.
This sparked the game into life, as Spurs most dangerous player Bethany England equalized with a quarter of an hour remaining cutting in from the left side to turn Maya Le Tissier and fire across Earps to score her 60th goal in the Women’s Super League. That strike brought her level with Fran Kirby in joint third-place on all the all-time list, only Vivianne Miedema (78) and Ellen White (61) have now scored more than her in the league’s history.
Spurs’ jubilation was only short-live as Manchester United substitute, Lucia Garia immediately run down the right and fired in a dangerous cross which was lashed into her own net by Tottenham defender Molly Bartrip. The drama was not yet over as United’s star playmaker, Ella Toone was then shown a straight red card as she reacted to a challenge on her by Summanen by shoving the Finnish player to the ground.
The result leaves Manchester United a point clear of Chelsea having played one game more, going into the international break. Perhaps more importantly, they are now six clear of Arsenal in fourth place as they seek to secure a top-three place and a berth in next season’s UEFA Champions League. The Women’s Super League resumes in the first weekend in March.