Manchester United 5-0 Lewes
FA Women’s Championship
Saturday 11th May
Venue: Leigh Sports Village
The Rooks were well-beaten by league champions, Manchester United, in an electric atmosphere at the Leigh Sports Village for the last game of the season in front of a buzzing 3,702 fans and the onlooking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and United CEO Ed Woodward.
United’s full-time stars were in charge from the starting whistle and called Lewes goalkeeper, Faye Baker, into action in the first minute of the game to confidently save a low, slicing shot. Clinical passing and ball control allowed them to maintain possession and press Lewes into their half to win a corner with only two minutes played. Lewes’ defence were barely given time to settle into the game, however, midfielder, Shannon Moloney continued to make crucial tackles to dispossess the strong, home side.
In the 11th minute, 17-year-old United striker, Lauren James, capitalised on a defensive error and to the delight of the Barmy Army fans, hammered a shot into the bottom right corner to make it 1-0.
The Rook’s responded well, with striker, Katie Rood using her attacking speed to open up chances for the away side. The New Zealand international weaved through the United full backs and shot on goal which was only deflected due to a fortunate block from the Reds. However, United tightened their defence and responded on the break with a shot on the cross bar, leaving the home fans jumping out their seats.
United’s attacking resilience and physicality paid off in the 34 minute when Jess Sigsworth nutmegged a Lewes defender to make it 2-0. Faye Baker was on her toes throughout the first half, and continued to make pivotal saves to deny the home side the opportunity to stretch their two-goal lead and the Reds went into the half time break as the stronger side with a 2-0 lead.
Lewes manager, Fran Alonso, made a tactical change going into the second half, by substituting midfielder, Sophie O’Rourke with defender, Amy Taylor, to bolster the back line. And the first chance of the second half went to Lewes as Katie Rood on 50 minutes as she sped into United’s half and put pressure on their defence with her attacking momentum on the break. However, Lewes’ forwards were outmuscled off the ball by the physicality of United’s Jess Sigsworth.
When United pressed, the impressive Samantha Quayle proved an integral part of the Rooks’ defence, and put her body on the line to tackle the strong home side. Then, on 71 minutes, Reds’ attacking duo, Leah Galton and Lauren James worked in perfect harmony together to snake through Lewes’ defence, allowing Galton to shoot confidently in the top right corner making it 3-0. The stadium came to life with chants for the home side, with United men’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer making an appearance from his VIP box to the fans’ delight.
Alonso responded to the goal by substituting midfielder, Leeta Rutherford who had battled hard all match, for centre forward, Jess King. Despite the fresh legs for Lewes, United oozed confidence following the third goal and pressurised the Rooks, forcing them to track back into their own half. At this stage of the game, United’s full-time training and fitness meant they could finish the match strongly as Lewes began to tire.
Set pieces by United tested Baker in goal, who made tremendous, leaping saves to keep the Rooks in the game, so much so that even the Man Utd ‘Barmy Army’ sang her name in appreciation. Yet, she was unable to save a bullet strike from United’s Aimee Palmer, who hammered a shot into the back of the net after the ball unexpectedly broke to her at the edge of the box, to stretch their lead to 4-0 in the 74 minute.
The league champions’ passing precision and ball control showed they’ve been drilled to perfection by manager of the month, Casey Stoney and their target had always been to score seven goals in this match to hit the magic figure of 100 goals scored in a season. So it was that the Reds relentlessly pressed Lewes’ backline to find cracks in their defence. However, the fifth goal only came courtesy of a flick inside the 6-yard box from Amy Turner, much to the frustration of the Lewes defence as the player was clearly offside (as confirmed by video of the match), the assistant referee unable to confirm this to the referee after some consultation. Tensions rose under the sun when United’s captain, Alex Greenwood crashed into Shannon Moloney with a dangerous tackle, which was controversially waved off by the referee.
The final whistle blew with the score line sitting at a disappointing 5-0 against the Rooks, who finish the league in ninth position.
It was another confident display for league champions, Manchester United, who have scored an impressive 98 goals this season and conceded only 7 all season. They are promoted into the FA Women’s Super League along with Spurs.
Speaking after the match, Fran Alonso said: “We hoped for a much closer game. The first half we were kind of pleased with it, but both goals were avoidable. We made mistakes and when you make mistakes with a team like that they punish you. We got a couple of good chances so it was a fairly close first half but in the second half we ran out of energy and we started to concede a lot of space.”
“5-0 was too much, one of the goals I think shouldn’t have counted but that’s football, United are good and they definitely deserve to win the league.”
Alonso added: “This is a good experience for us and next season we want to be so much better and more competitive against every team in the league.”
Reflecting on the result, Midfielder Shannon Moloney said: “Manchester United are a great side, of course they deserved the win today but I feel that we did well, we moved the ball as well as we could, we showed character and heart today and the girls put their bodies on the line.”
Lewes Football Club wishes Manchester United and their fantastic ‘Barmy Army’ fans all the best in the Super League. We’ll miss you 😉