Manchester United Women 6 v 1 Bristol City WomenEmbed from Getty Images
Manchester United showed the mark of champions as they thrashed struggling Bristol City to win 6-1 at Leigh Sports Village and send a message out to other title contenders.
It has often been commented this season how this Manchester United side looks so different compared to last season and this game was one that emphasised that point. The Red Devils oozed class from start to finish as braces from Leah Galton and Tobin Heath along with a goal each from Jessica Sigsworth and Mille Turner meant they went four points clear at the top of the Women’s Super League following the postponement of second-placed Chelsea’s game at home to Tottenham due to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.
Heath has been one of the names that has been mentioned as to why United are enjoying their dramatic rise to the top and the American, who was named in the Fifa Women’s FifPro World XI this week, displayed why she is so important to Casey Stoney’s side, her late brace topping off a superb performance to continue United’s brilliant season.
The away side started the brighter of the two with striker Ebony Salmon, who was released by the home side last season having a golden chance to make them pay in the opening minutes after being played in behind and getting ahead of defender Amy Turner she lobbed keeper Mary Earps only to see her effort go wide.Embed from Getty Images
Salmon was a rare glimmer for Bristol City as the defensive tactics implemented by manager Tanya Oxtoby allowed United to dominate possession and string together attacks with ease, with the first big chance of the game falling to Jackie Groenen in the sixth minute, whose volley was well saved by keeper Sophie Baggaley.
Baggaley was keeping Bristol City in the game in the opening 20 minutes with a string of fine saves the best being from a shot from range from Ona Batlle that the 24-year-old did well to push over the bar.
It was Red Devils top-scorer Galton who would break the deadlock as more passing build-up play around the Bristol City box from United saw her get the ball, turn defender Florence Allen and hit a shot from range which flew into the top right corner.
The next 10 minutes were dominated by Heath as the WSL Player of the Month displayed her skillset that has led her to become one of the best players in the world. But, not to be outdone Baggaley denied the winger with a superb save at close range on the half-hour mark.Embed from Getty Images
The Vixens continued to barely hold on but just as the half drew to a close United captain Katie Zelem produced the goods as she whipped in a perfectly directed corner for Mille Turner to run on to and bury her header into the ground and into the top of the net to double the home side’s lead.
United pressed home their dominance after the break as Sigsworth went down and appealed for a penalty during the delivery of a corner but reacted well after the ball had ballooned up in the air and landed at her feet to slot home from the centre of the box to notch her first goal of the season.
Unlike the first half, United were soon turning dominance into more goals as Galton was set free down the right by Ella Toone before coming inside to deliver a cross-cum-shot which went over Baggaley and into the top right corner to make it 4-0.
United perhaps eased off the gas in the following minutes as Bristol came at them with a rare spell of good play, winger Charlie Wellings waking up Earps in the United goal when she rattled the near post before the former had another great chance two minutes later but was denied by the feet of the English keeper.
Earps was on top form, but just minutes later she was beaten when Salmon raced through only to be denied by the keeper one on one but the rebound fell nicely to the former United striker who lofted her effort into the net to offer a crumb of consolation for Bristol City.
With the home side receiving a wakeup call, they continued to push for more goals with substitutes Kirsty Hanson and Lauren Harris going close before Heath got in on the action with yet another goal of the season contender.
The American latched on to a misplaced pass and spotting Baggaley off her line, hit a first time shot from distance which flew over the keeper to make it 5-1.
It was soon six for United and two for Heath who doubled her goal tally for the season with a brilliant piece of skill as she nutmegged Gemma Evans before calmly rolling the ball past Baggaley.
It should have been three for Heath as with the last kick of the game she flashed a shot just wide from the edge of the box but as the full-time whistle blew there was no doubting the influence of the American in yet another superb Manchester United performance.
With the BBC and Sky Sports close to agreeing a TV deal with the FA which will see games broadcast live regularly on BBC One and BBC Two, it will mean that the WSL and amazing talents such as Heath will be freely available to watch and inspire a new generation of footballers as the women’s game continues to grow exponentially.
The result means yet another defeat for Bristol City as their horror show of a season continues. Their outdated and one-sided tactics were again dismantled and now sit four points adrift at the bottom in desperate need of a change.
With Arsenal beating Everton in the day’s other lunchtime kick-off, United only extended their lead by a point but it was more the dominant performance that marked up Stoney’s side to be possible champions as they head into two big fixtures versus Everton and Chelsea in the next two weeks.
For more women’s football content check out Millie Hawkins feature on Casey Stoney’s Manchester United here.