Two goals from Leah Galton helped Manchester United comfortably beat Brighton 4-0 on Saturday and stay first in the Women’s Super League title race.
Galton headed in Katie Zelem’s set piece in the 12th minute before squeezing in a second midway through the second half, taking the Red Devils three points ahead of Manchester City before their clash with Arsenal on Sunday.
United added two goals late on as substitutes Rachel Williams and Lucia Garcia both struck in the space of two minutes.
Defender Guro Bergsvand dropped out of the Seagulls’ starting XI for midfielder Libby Bance, while Vilde Boe Risa made her first league start for United in a year as Nikita Parris was named on the bench.
The hosts’ defending frustrated United during the opening ten minutes but the league leaders took advantage of some static set-piece defending to go ahead.
Lydia Williams couldn’t get close to Zelem’s corner and Galton stooped to nod in her seventh WSL goal of the season.
Brighton did push for an equaliser but couldn’t muster more than half-chances, with Poppy Pattinson shooting into the side-netting during a flat final ten minutes before half time.
United haven’t lost a WSL game when scoring the opening goal this season and the turf at Broadfield Stadium made goalscoring opportunities hard to come by. Brighton did squander one big opportunity to draw level just after the break, but Millie Turner did well to deny Lee Geum-min a chance on goal.
While Ella Toone and Alessia Russo looked threatening when United burst forward, it was Galton who struck again to seal the visitors’ grip on first place over the weekend and undo the good work Brighton offered after half time.
Hannah Blundell played Galton in past Jorja Fox and the 28-year-old rounded Williams before finishing from a tight angle.
A potshot from distance from Elisabeth Terland was easily held by Mary Earps while Russo tried to get on the scoresheet at the other end, eventually seeing a shot cleared. Toone soon had the ball in the back of the net but saw her strike disallowed for offside.
United’s second goal largely knocked the stuffing out of Brighton and two late strikes inflated the scoreline in the visitors’ favour.
Another Zelem corner caused havoc for Amy Merricks’ side and Williams was on hand to head in for United’s third at the near post.
They were gifted a fourth by some calamitous Brighton defending and an out of position goalkeeper as Garcia picked up loose possession to easily finish and hand United a fourth WSL win in five games. Brighton, meanwhile, are down in 11th, only two points ahead of bottom placed Leicester.
GK: Lydia Williams – 4/10 – Couldn’t shake off Galton at the corner when Brighton went behind. Caught nowhere for United’s fourth.
CB: Zoe Morse – 5/10 – Recovered the ball well in places and made some important interceptions.
CB: Megan Connolly – 4/10 – Made some last-ditch challenges as Brighton looked to hold off United. Poor back-pass gave United and Garcia a fourth goal.
CB: Emma Kullberg – 6/10 – Dealt well with Russo and had one decent flicked chance from a corner.
RWB: Jorja Fox – 5/10 – Caught out slightly by Galton’s second and had the hardest job of the day in attempting to keep Galton quiet.
CM: Julia Zigiotti Olme – 7/10 – Probably the brightest of Brighton’s outfield players. Constantly involved in midfield tussles and looked to get her side moving on the counter.
CM: Libby Bance – 5/10 – Had to switch between defensive and midfield duties before being subbed just after the hour mark.
LWB: Poppy Pattinson – 5/10 – Skewed one half-chance wide and was booked early in the second half.
RW: Katie Robinson – 6/10 – Showed her pace on occasion but rarely got the opportunity or space to do any damage.
ST: Lee Geum-min – 6/10 – A few nice dribbles here and there and didn’t waste possession but didn’t get any chances to shoot.
LW: Veatriki Sarri – 5/10 – A little overeager out of possession and was penned in for most of the game.
Elisabeth Terland (64′ for Bance) – 5/10
Visalli (90′ for Sarr) – N/A
Amy Merricks – 5/10 – Brighton’s spirited showing at the start of the second half was all credit to Merricks, but the gap in quality was clear to see as the game wore on.
GK: Mary Earps – 7/10 – Made a couple of saves and distribution, especially was long ball, was good.
RB: Ona Batlle – 7/10 – Skipped away from challenges regularly and sent in some whizzing crosses.
CB: Maya Le Tissier – 7/10 – Comfortable in defence against her own side and heavily involved in United’s build-up.
CB: Millie Turner – 7/10 – Good recovery challenge on Lee stopped the Brighton forward getting a chance on goal.
LB: Hannah Blundell – 8/10 – Great lobbed pass got Galton in behind Fox for United’s second. Strong in defence.
CM: Hayley Ladd – 7/10 – Earned a couple of fouls and was physical in keeping United on top in midfield.
CM: Katie Zelem – 8/10 – Expert set-piece delivery earned Zelem two assists. Rarely between for loose ball in midfield.
AM: Ella Toone – 6/10 – Had the ball in the back of the net but saw it disallowed. A threat but outshone here.
RW: Vilde Boe Risa – 5/10 – Quiet on her surprise start and came off on the hour.
ST: Alessia Russo – 7/10 – Enjoyed some strong surging runs forward but just couldn’t get on the scoresheet.
LW: Leah Galton – 9/10 – Her two goals set United up for the win before the two late strikes. Unsettled Williams at the corner for her first and finished expertly for her brace.
Rachel Williams (60′ for Boe Risa) – 7/10 – Good header at the back post wrapped up the points for United.
Lucia Garcia (78′ for Russo) – 7/10 – Poor back-pass from Connolly allowed Garcia to race in and add United’s fourth.
Marc Skinner – 7/10 – Probably took a little longer than expected for his United side to pull away from Brighton here but Skinner’s side will remain at the top of the WSL table this weekend.