Aston Villa Women have lost 2-0 to Manchester United Women today, but the result signals a vast improvement over the last two years.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa Women arrived at the Banks’s Stadium this afternoon hoping to make amends after their loss against Birmingham City Women in the first ever Women’s Super League Second City Derby – but standing in their way were unbeaten league giants Manchester United Women – who had fired 17 goals past Gemma Davies’ side when both were in the FA Women’s Championship.
It took just thirty-six seconds for Manchester United to get a shot away, with Lauren James almost making her mark early on with an effort that was fired just wide of Lisa Weiß’ left-side post.
Aston Villa were not resting on their laurels, however, with an attempt of their own just three minutes later. Smart work from Shania Hayles down the left side, paired with a clever pass from Emma Follis meant that Ramona Petzelberger was able to fire a flick towards goal – but the effort lacked in power and was easily collected.
United were forced into an early change around the ten minute mark as both sides were enjoying pushes forward into the opposition final third. Jackie Groenen was unable to continue and was replaced by Lucy Staniforth.
Davies’ side showcased that they were able to cause Manchester United Women issues within the first 20 minutes as they continued to work the ball into the box of the league leaders. The visitors were struggling to keep possession as Aston Villa pressed relentlessly and picked up loose balls.
The deadlock was broken in the 24th minute, however, as Anita Asante lost the ball in Villa’s final third, allowing Manchester United’s Leah Galton to slip through on goal and fire calmly past Weiß and into the bottom left.
Shania Hayles could have equalised five minutes later after a well-timed pass found her through on goal, but the angle was against her and Manchester United’s defence forced her away from goal. She got a shot away but it was saved well.
Despite being behind at the end of the half, it was exactly what fans wanted to see from Aston Villa – a competitive fight against one of the stronger sides in the division.
Emma Follis forced the Manchester United keeper into an awkward save five minutes into the second half, before playing a ball back into the goalmouth that Shania Hayles connected with. The ball ricocheted up into the air, before bouncing off the bar – where it was eventually cleared.
United’s Lauren James must have felt left out as just down the other end a few minutes later, she fired a long-range effort towards goal that thundered off the bar.
Emma Follis was replaced by Diana Silva as the first change for Gemma Davies this afternoon.
Around the hour mark, Aston Villa Women began to struggle in their efforts to get forward. Whether it was a poor touch or a poor pass, Manchester United Women began to dominate the proceedings.
Chloe Arthur replaced Sophie Haywood in the 66th minute, with the Scot hoping to make an impact off the bench. The change likely signalled a change in system.
Jane Ross almost bagged a massive opportunity from just a couple of yards out for Manchester United Women – but the ball was stopped well by Lisha N’Dow before it rolled across the line.
Ten minutes before time and Jodie Hutton and Emily Syme replaced Marisa Ewers and Shania Hayles as Aston Villa Women attempted to push for an equaliser.
Manchester United sealed their three points two minutes from the end as Lisa Weiß rushed out to clear a ball over the top – but only as far as Ella Toone, who was able to lob the German goalkeeper from 25-yards out.
It’s not the result that Aston Villa would have hoped for – but it signals how far the side have come in two years.