Manchester City are into the fifth round of this season’s Women’s FA Cup after beating Manchester United 3-2 at the Leigh Sports Village this afternoon.
It was a monumental clash which saw City come away with the victory, however, the game was not without controversy.
The last meeting between the two sides that took place at the Leigh Sports Village ended in a 2-0 victory for The Red Devils and Casey Stoney’s side will have been looking for a repeat of that result going into this game.
The first meaningful effort of the match fell to the away side. Ellen White found herself through on goal but was unable to beat Mary Earps in the United net. That was a warning to United that they would be punished for sloppy defending at the back.
Yet the travelling side had a ‘hearts-in-mouths’ moment of their own when a wayward pass from keeper Ellie Roebuck could only find United number nine Jess Sigsworth. Thankfully for the City goalkeeper, Sigsworth’s first time effort was blocked by Gemma Bonner before it could trouble the goal. The rebound then find it’s way to Jane Ross but her left-footed shot could only drift over.
However, it was City who put themselves ahead on the 30-minute mark when an under-hit pass from Abbie McManus was pounced upon by White. The City forward was ruthless in her finish as she chipped Earps and found the back of the net to put her side in-front. White missed the first two fixtures between the sides earlier in the season so she will have been delighted to get on the scoresheet in her first Manchester derby.
The game was much more open in the second half as both sides pushed hard knowing that next goal was crucial in the fixture. City caught United on the break and Millie Turner was left on her own with White and Tessa Wullaert bearing down on goal. White slipped the ball to Wullaert who cut inside on her left and looked certain to make it 2-0 but she couldn’t get a clean connection on the ball and scuffed her shot wide.
The away side did eventually have their second goal when Lauren Hemp drilled a low cross into the area which White met with a deft first-time finish to beat Earps to get her brace.
United responded well to going 2-0 down and came close to drawing a goal back shortly after. Jackie Groenen won the ball high up and slipped it through to Kirsty Hanson who struck at goal but was foiled by Roebuck who managed to tip the ball over.
Stoney’s side then did have the ball in the back of the net direct from a Katie Zelem corner but referee Michael Barlow blew up after a coming together between Roebuck and Hanson with the official in favour of the City keeper.
United did then draw a goal back through substitute Lauren James. A long ball over the top caught out Bonner and was latched onto by the teenager. James cut back inside onto her left and drilled a low shot in at the near post. The goal lifted the roof off the Leigh Sports Village as the home fans sensed the game was there for the taking.
United looked to have drawn the game level when a deep free-kick from Zelem was headed by Steph Houghton and was tapped towards goal by McManus at the back post. The ball appeared to have crossed the line, but the referee once again denied United their goal. The home fans were incensed with both the lineswoman and referee for not giving the goal and their frustration was compounded further when City restored their two-goal lead.
Jill Scott fired in an effort from the edge of the area and her shot took a fortunate deflection which wrong footed Earps and settled in the back of the net to make it 3-1.
Then, in what was proving to be a breathless second half, United got their first stroke of good fortune in the whole game and they halved the deficit once more when Hemp directed the ball into her own net from a corner. That made it 3-2 and the noise from the crowd was deafening as the home side pushed for that elusive equaliser. There were 1,948 fans in attendance but it felt like 30,000 as they jeered the home side on.
However, that third goal proved one step too far for The Red Devils and City won 3-2 to eliminate their Manchester rivals from the Women’s FA Cup. It was the perfect result for manager Nick Cushing in what will be his last Manchester derby before leaving for New York City FC.
Despite both sides not being at their best and having numerous unforced errors, the drama and the tension was palpable and many will be hoping for more of the same when the two teams face each other once again in March.
Both teams will have little time to reflect on today’s match as they each have midweek FA Women’s Continental League Cup semi-finals to contend with. For United, it is back at home where they welcome Emma Hayes’ Chelsea side and City make the long journey down south to face Arsenal in a repeat of last year’s final.