Manchester City Women moved above Manchester United into third place in the WSL with a 4-0 victory over Leicester City Women at the Academy Stadium. Goals from Caroline Weir, Lauren Hemp, Julie Blakstad and a penalty from Alex Greenwood drew the blues level with United, but moved City into third thanks to a goal difference better than United of just one goal.
It was just what manager Gareth Taylor had ordered before the match and, while City weren’t as penetrative and lethal in front of goal as they could have been, it was enough to put the blues ahead of their City rivals, albeit for a few hours until the result of United’s match at Aston Villa on Sunday evening.
But City’s win, their sixth straight WSL victory and tenth in all competitions, has given the blues momentum that manager Taylor will be looking to continue until the end of the season. City face home matches against Brighton and Birmingham City, and travel to Reading for the final match of the season, before heading for Wembley and another final showdown with Chelsea.
But first, the blues had to tackle a Leicester side that had won three on the bounce, before losing their following three and now face a straight fight with Birmingham City to stay in the WSL. Birmingham have a game in hand that could put them within a point of the Foxes, however that game is a trip to City and, with the blues dispatching Leicester without barely breaking a sweat, it may be a long and difficult evening for the second city side.
The blues dominated the first half against the WSL strugglers and could have been more than 3-0 before the break. Knowing they couldn’t afford to slip up in any of their final matches, the City almost got off to the best possible start on ten minutes.
Hemp linked up with captain Ellen White, as they have so often done for City and England, but the Lionesses all-time top goalscorer saw her shot parried onto the post by Demi Lambourne in the Leicester goal.
City continued to pile on the pressure and eventually it would show in the Leicester defence, so it was no surprise when Weir gave City the lead on 16 minutes. Chloe Kelly evaded the Leicester defence down the right and her cross found Weir, who slid in to divert the ball past Lambourne and send City on their way.
Hemp was a constant thorn in the Leicester side and almost made it 2-0 in the 40th minute, but her low drive went agonisingly past the post. But despair turned to delight for the England winger soon after when she did make it 2-0. The winger picked up the ball midway inside the Leicester half and charged forward. Her pass found Blakstad who got the ball back to Hemp to finish into the far corner.
Three minutes into injury time was enough for Blakstad to make it 3-0 with her first goal in a City shirt. Collecting a pass, the only thing on her mind was a shot at goal, and her thunderous attempt flew past Lambourne to close the goal difference gap on United further.
City created few chances in the second half, but were awarded a penalty in the 62nd minute. Hemp was brought down in the area by Lambourne and Alex Greenwood stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way, and roll the ball into the corner to make it 4-0.
With goal difference looking like being a deciding factor in the race for third, City stepped it up and brought on Bunny Shaw and Georgia Stanway, as well as Ruby Mace in defence, but it was Weir who went closest to increasing the lead. Two chances in three minutes saw the Scottish midfielder fire over the bar, as did substitute Filippa Angeldahl.
But the closest was maybe Stanway, whose 84h minute strike was deflected inches wide when it looked certain to nestle into the bottom corner.
Leicester offered very little in return, with Ellie Roebuck virtually a spectator. Her only call to action was to stop a free kick from Jemma Purfield just before the hour mark.
With their incredible run, City have thrown the gauntlet down to United, and any slip from the reds now could see them miss out on the Champions League slot that for so long, had looked like theirs for the taking.
Final Score: Manchester City Women 4-0 Leicester City Women