Points were shared in Manchester, as City fought back with ten women, to earn a draw in the first Manchester women’s derby of the season.
There have only been three fixtures between Manchester City and Manchester Utd in the Women’s Super League, but the atmosphere surrounding this fourth derby felt markedly different.
City came into the game 9th in the WSL after a difficult start to the season with three losses in their last three games and having conceded nine goals. United, meanwhile, had a promising start to their league campaign with three wins out of four, putting them in 4th place prior to the game.
For the first time, United were the favourites, with injury-hit City’s poor form leading to a complete role reversal between the two Manchester teams.
City started the brighter of the two sides with Demi Stokes, Lauren Hemp, and Caroline Weir linking-up well on the left-hand side. Their dominance down this side saw an early chance created by a Hemp cross into the box, only for Jeanine Beckie’s shot to be saved by Mary Earps who had a brilliant afternoon in the United goal.
A couple of minutes later, Hemp was on the receiving end of another cross from Filippa Angeldal on the right-hand side, but her header was blocked by Maria Thorisdottir at the heart of the United defence.
Despite their bright start, things seemed to be turning against City when, just after the half-hour mark, Georgia Stanway who was deputising at right-back for the injured Lucy Bronze, was shown a red card for a high boot on Leah Galton.
With a player down it may have felt like City’s attacking threat would be severely hampered, but it was the blue side of Manchester who took the lead three minutes after Stanway’s sending off. Again, link-up between Stokes, Hemp, and Weir on City’s left was key, with Stokes sending in a cross which found Khadija “Bunny” Shaw in acres of space in the United box to nod in a largely uncontested header.
The start of the second-half saw United making the most of their extra player, piling continuous attacking pressure onto the make-shift City defence which saw midfielders Beckie (slotting in at right back after Stanway’s sending off) and Jill Scott (at centre-back) showcasing their defensive abilities.
United found their equaliser through Lucy Staniforth, who made an instant impact, scoring just five minutes after being brought on. A quickly taken United corner caught City off-guard, and the English midfielder was left with plenty of time to flick a delightful back-heel in at the near post.
United took the lead three minutes later, when a lovely pass from Ella Toone cut open the City defence finding Hannah Blundell, who had made an excellent run down the left-hand side. Blundell’s cross reached Alessia Russo who got the ball out from under her feet to strike home into the bottom-right corner.
Both managers will have been pleased with their substitutions, with both making key personnel changes that led to the equalisers. Jessica Park came on for Angeldal shortly after United’s second, an attacking change that signified Gareth Taylor’s pursuit of an equaliser.
The change paid off two minutes later when 19-year-old Park’s shot from range was tipped onto the bar by Earps, only for the rebound to be followed up by the ever-dependable Ellen White, who herself had come on as a substitute earlier in the second half.
In their post-match interviews with the BBC, both managers described the game as a ‘rollercoaster’, and you’d be hard-put to think of a more apt description.
United may feel more aggrieved not to have claimed the three-points against 10-players, but both managers will have been pleased with the performance of their side. United look to be making good strides in establishing themselves as a top WSL side, after having gained promotion to the league in 2019. While City will be hoping this hard-fought derby draw will be the performance they need to kick start their season.
Player of the Match: Lauren Hemp