WSL: Brighton v Manchester United
Manchester United soar to the top of the table after an emphatic 4-0 win over Brighton
2 April 2023
Leah Galton scored twice and Rachel Williams and Lucia Garcia scored further goals as Manchester United beat Brighton 4-0 at the Broadfield Stadium on Saturday lunchtime. The win sees United move three points clear (as of Saturday) of Manchester City at the top of the Women’s Super League (WSL) though they have played a game more. The attendance of 4,375 was a record for Brighton at this ground.
Brighton went into this match with no league win since November. Interim head coach Amy Merricks made one change from their 2-2 draw at Reading last Sunday with Libby Bance coming in for Guro Bergsvand.
Manchester United had beaten West Ham 4-0 at Old Trafford last Saturday and head coach Marc Skinner made one change from that starting eleven with Nikita Parris dropping to the bench and Vilde Boa Risa coming in to replace her.
Neither side had any real opportunities in the opening 10 minutes or so. Manchester United won a corner in the 12th minute, and Galton headed in Katie Zelem’s cross from close-range to give the visitors the lead. The United fans who were behind that goal celebrated, and they also made a good noise throughout the game.
Brighton first chance came in the 29th minute when an inswinging corner from Poppy Pattinson was headed over by Emma Kullberg.
A couple for decisions went against Brighton frustrating their players, coaches and fans. Interim head coach Merrick was asked about this afterwards and said “I think the officials are trying their best, I think there needs to be more support around it, and support their performances in terms they need to be full time”. She added more investment is needed into officiating to support the game where it is now. If this is done, she thinks this could take the women’s game to another level.
Boa Risa headed towards goal in the 37th minute but there was not enough power on it and Lydia Williams caught at the second attempt. A minute later, the Norwegian international was unable to control the ball 6-yards out box and it went out for a goal kick.
Referee Stacey Fullicks now frustrated the United fans and Ella Toone when she blew for a free kick when the England international had just received the ball. Millie Turner couldn’t control the resulting free kick and ball went behind.
As the fourth official signalled one minute of additional time, a nice move from the home side involving Julia Zigiotti and Geummin Lee down the right side finished with a cross reaching Pattinson who put her shot into the side netting.
In opening minutes of second half, Pattinson put a corner into side netting. The South coast side had a better chance in the 52nd minute when Pattinson’s cross evaded Lee in the middle but found Katie Robinson, she passed back to Veatriki Sarri whose effort was saved by Mary Earps.
Former Brighton player Maya Le Tissier saw an effort blocked at one end before the Seagulls counter-attacked but Robinson was a bit slow to pass to Lee and the chance was gone.
Manchester United doubled their lead in the 66th minute, a bit against the run of play since half time.
Galton picked the ball up and got away from Jorja Fox, took ball around Williams and finished low into the net from tight angle. Head coach Skinner was asked about Galton after the match and responded by saying “she is one of the best left sided players I have ever worked with”, and the club are “lucky to have her and she is a very talented player”. He also noted this second goal was “hugely important” after the Seagulls good start to the second half.
Immediately after going two goals behind, the home had an opportunity but Elisabeth Terland sent her shot straight at Earps.
Toone had the ball in the net in the 75th minute but the offside flag was up to deny her. United had another chance a minute later when the ball was played through to Alessia Russo but Williams got down to save.
Zigiotti had a chance for Brighton in 81st minute but her effort from 18-yards through a crowd of players went narrowly wide of the post.
Rachel Williams saw a shot saved by Lydia Williams, before the United substitute did find the net shortly after when she headed in a corner to make it 3-0.
The visitors scored a fourth a minute later when another substitute Garcia picked up a loose ball and went round Williams before putting the ball in the net. Skinner said the Spanish international was unlucky not to start this game and also noted that United have “got a wonderful talent, she is learning lots this year, four goals shows her focus, there is going to be lots more to come from Lucia”
Zelem had the final chance of the match for Manchester United in stoppage time but her shot was saved.
When speaking to the media after the match, Marc Skinner commented about the team that he is “proud of them and what they’ve done” and this was a “wonderful performance and really pleased, ranks up there as one of the best performances based on the circumstances”. He mentioned they take it game by game and did their job today. He was also asked about players who don’t start that often and if they will get chance (Jayde Riviere etc). He responded by saying “we have got very talented players already starting in positions and very talented players that can come into positions” and noted they like consistency especially when you don’t need to change it for the sake of it.
Amy Merrick thought for “a large portion of the game we were in it, threatening, good passages of play, some good movement” She continued by saying they had a decision to make when it went 2-0 “either go for it or don’t, we went for it and that opened up some space in behind at times with pace of Leah Galton etc.” She was pleased with how her side is competing in each game and it positive they are competing with sides like Manchester United.
This result leaves Brighton two points above bottom side Leicester but they have played a game less whilst United ride high at the top of the WSL table (as of Saturday). Brighton and Manchester United play each other again after the international break in a fortnight’s time in the FA Cup semi-finals, this time in Leigh.
Brighton & Hove Albion (5-4-1): L. Williams, Fox, Morse, Connolly, Kullberg, Pattinson, Robinson, Bance (Terland 64’), Zigiotti (c), Sarri (Visalli 90’), Lee
Unused substitutes: Walsh, Startup, V. Williams, Stott, Park, Ferguson, Carter
Booked – Zigiotti, Pattinson
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Earps, Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell, Zelem (c), Ladd, Toone, Boa Risa (R. Williams 60’), Galton, Russo (Garcia 78’)
Unused substitutes: Middleton-Patel, Mannion, Riviere, Tounkara, Cascarino, Parris, Thomas
Goal – Galton 12’, 66’, Williams 86’, Garcia 87’
Referee – Stacey Fullicks
Attendance – 4,375