García and Ladd fire Manchester United to top of WSL with win over West Ham

A comfortable victory for Manchester United in front of almost 28,000 at Old Trafford saw them return to the top of the Women’s Super League. The hosts were uninspired in the first half but burst into life after the break to overwhelm West Ham with a penalty from captain Katie Zelem and goals from Lucia García and Hayley Ladd.

“We were not quick enough or progressive enough in the first half,” said Marc Skinner, the Manchester United head coach. “At half-time we had a few words and recognised that we did not give the Red Devil energy that we needed. Second half, you saw that, and the players took ownership which is all we want.

“This is the third game I’ve played [at Old Trafford] as manager and it felt more like home today. There was a moment it turned where the fans just got right behind us… it makes a massive difference.”

It was a return to league action for United after the disappointment of losing to Chelsea a fortnight ago. Despite that, confidence remained high after Skinner’s side reached their first ever FA Cup semi-final last weekend. Looking to get their title chase back on track, the United manager named his strongest available lineup with Leah Galton returning to make her 100th appearance for the club.

United have not been at their free-flowing best recently which would have given West Ham encouragement. The visitors, however, came into the match without a win in the league since December and struggling badly for goals.

Spurred on by a raucous atmosphere inside Old Trafford, United controlled the ball early on, putting together a series of slick passages of play. Ella Toone buzzed with her trademark energy while the running of Ona Batlle caused West Ham consternation.

It was through this route that they were handed their first clear opportunity with Alessia Russo diverting Batlle’s whipped cross wide. The England striker had another chance moments later when she was put through by an instinctive flick from Nikita Parris but was unable to convert the chance.

Lucia García completes the scoring in stoppage time.
Lucia García completes the scoring in stoppage time. Photograph: Matt Lewis/The FA/Getty Images

Despite their dominance United produced a single shot on target in the first half, one fewer than their opponents. West Ham were patient, picking their moments to counter. It almost came off for them when the height of Dagný Brynjarsdóttir caused problems for Mary Earps in the box. In the resulting melee, Maya Le Tissier managed to scramble the ball off the line.

The referee, Emily Heaslip, waved away two penalty shouts from the hosts. The calls were correct with Ladd and Leah Galton both going down too easily under contact.

The home side emerged early for the second half determined to put things right and it did not take them long to break the deadlock in the 52nd minute. Hawa Cissoko blatantly took away Russo’s legs and Zelem stepped up to confidently fire home from the penalty spot.

skip past newsletter promotion

Quick Guide

Arsenal thrash Spurs in WSL derby


A Caitlin Foord double helped Arsenal warm up for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final with a 5-1 thrashing of rivals Tottenham in the Women’s Super League.

Jonas Eidevall’s side entered the derby after a 1-0 loss in the first leg at Bayern Munich but were back to their clinical best in a scintillating display at Brisbane Road.

Stina Blackstenius got the rout started early before Foord, captain Kim Little and Frida Maanum all got in on the act to hand Vicky Jepson’s struggling Spurs a heavy loss despite Bethany England’s first-half penalty.

Victory for title hopefuls Arsenal moved them within two points of leaders Chelsea, who visit Manchester City on Sunday.

This was a Tottenham home match and a memorable occasion for Kerys Harrop, who was included in the starting line-up and levelled Gilly Flaherty’s record of 177 WSL appearances, but the visiting faithful travelled in numbers from across north London.

Leah Williamson sent the ball forward for Blackstenius to run in behind Molly Bartrip and the visiting forward caught Tinja-Riikka Korpela off guard with an early powerful effort that found the roof of the net.

A stoppage for Korpela to receive treatment provided Tottenham with some much-needed respite, but normal service quickly resumed and a second goal for Arsenal arrived.

Foord collected the ball on the left and dribbled at Ashleigh Neville before she curled home from 25 yards via the post to make it 2-0 after 29 minutes.

The deficit was reduced with six minutes of the opening 45 left when Neville had a shot blocked by the hand of Katie McCabe and England drilled into the bottom left corner from 12 yards against WSL debutant Sabrina D’Angelo.

Amy Turner caught McCabe inside the area and referee Louise Saunders pointed to the spot for a second time, with Arsenal captain Little doing the honours with a powerful shot into the roof of the net.

Eidevall’s side scored again four minutes later when Foord controlled at the back post and fired home with a little help from the woodwork again.

More misery was to come Tottenham’s way when Williamson, now in midfield, won back possession from Spence and Maanum saw her lobbed shot take a deflection off Bartrip to loop over Korpela to make it 5-1.

Substitute Gio Queiroz almost added a sixth but her poked effort hit the crossbar and she later limped off for the only sour note of a five-star display by treble-chasing Arsenal.

Thank you for your feedback.

United were in full control now and doubled their lead shortly after. If their first had been routine, their second was football at its best. After Risa Shimizu was robbed of possession, Toone took one glance to spot the run of substitute García. The Spaniard’s first touch was sublime, her finish past Mackenzie Arnold equally so.

An error in midfield led to the home team’s third with six minutes remaining. Winning back possession, United’s attack seemed relentless as Batlle set up Ladd. The midfielder has been in fine form all season and underlined her growing influence with another well-taken finish to snuff out any faint hope of a West Ham comeback before García added her second, and Manchester United’s fourth, in stoppage time.

It was not always pretty but this victory was another sign of United’s progress under Skinner. They continue to develop an ability to persevere, a trait associated with those chasing for titles.

The result saw them return to the top of the table and put the pressure firmly on Chelsea ahead of their visit to Manchester City on Sunday.