A second-half header from Laura Coombs gave Manchester City a share of the spoils as the blues came from behind to earn a point against United at the Etihad Stadium. Leah Galton had given the reds a first-half lead, which was cancelled by the in-form City midfielder as the 100% record for City’s home and United’s away matches both went at the same time.
It was a fitting result from two teams who at times, played at a frenetic pace, with action at both ends of the field as the two Manchester clubs fought for points, city colour and, of course, bragging rights.
But City extended their unbeaten run to ten matches in all competitions and they remain hot on the tails of the top three, ready to pounce should any of them make a mistake. However, it will take a monumental collapse from both Chelsea and Arsenal for the blues to be considered for the WSL title, with Chelsea currently eight points ahead of the blues at the top of the table.
Unless something drastic happens, it looks like City will be battling United for third place and a Champions League spot, and could have done without a draw against the neighbours and rivals as they remain three points behind the reds.
And, for a while, it looked like City would fall six points behind and suffer their first WSL derby day defeat as United looked the better side during a first half that saw few chances fall City’s way.
As opposed to the sometimes cagey affairs that are seen in the men’s game, Sunday’s match saw the blue and red girls go toe-to-toe from the start, with both teams attacking. City played a high line that United initially couldn’t find a way to deal with and for a while, it looked like it would end in another City victory, if only they could get the first goal.
But United held on and forced their way into the game; it was almost inevitable that they would take the lead. Galton played a neat one-two with Ella Toone and fired the ball through the legs of Alex Greenwood, perhaps taking a slight touch to wrongfoot Ellie Roebuck as the ball nestled in the City goal for United’s ever goal at City.
With their tales up, United had the confidence to go looking for a second and it was only a last-ditch challenge by Leila Ouahabi to deny Hannah Blundell a shooting opportunity that spared the blues from potentially going 2-0 down.
City offered very little in front of goal, with Lauren Hemp, back in the team after a recent thigh injury, showing flashes of brilliance but ultimately running into a red wall that looked impenetrable.
The blues started the second half in similar fashion to the first, but seemed to be lacking in the final third. City have been so potent against some of the other defences they have faced recently, but seemed to lack ideas on how to break United down.
On 58 minutes, the breakthrough they needed arrived. Chloe Kelly, who’d had a quiet afternoon so far, outpaced her marker and whipped in a cross from the right that looked destined for Bunny Shaw’s head. It was too high for the Jamaican, but it dropped enough for Coombs to steal in and guide the ball home.
That opened the doors for both teams to go out and find a winner and for long stretches, City pressed United back as they went in search of a winner. Both teams came close, with Toone hammering a shot over the final in the final moments of injury time, but a winner for either side would have been harsh on the other.
In the end, a draw was a fair result, but did nothing for either side in their challenge to wrench the WSL title from the hands of the two London clubs.
Final score: Manchester City Women 1-1 Manchester United Women