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WSL: Arsenal move three off top after cruising past sorry Man Utd

Arsenal moved three points off the WSL summit in front of a WSL-record crowd by seeing off sorry Man Utd 3-1, to further raise the pressure on manager Marc Skinner.

The Gunners were largely dominant in North London in front of 60,160 fans at Emirates Stadium as they took advantage of Chelsea’s slip-up to Man City on Friday night to re-ignite their own chances of lifting the title.

Any early nerves following the hosts’ shock defeat to West Ham in their last league game were eased inside 10 minutes through Geyse’s unfortunate deflection on Katie McCabe’s corner to deceive Mary Earps.

Man Utd slowly improved but had themselves to blame as they fell two behind during their best spell, when Katie Zelem’s attempted clearance became the perfect cross for Cloe Lacasse to nod in from close range (35).

The hosts’ scoring was done before half-time courtesy of another poor moment of Man Utd defending. Beth Mead was sent tumbling by Millie Turner inside the box, and Kim Little sent Earps the wrong way from 12 yards to all-but seal victory (44).

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Arsenal: D’Angelo (5), McCabe (7), Codina (7), Wubben-Moy (8), Catley (7), Walti (7), Pelova (8), Mead (9), Little (7), Lacasse (8), Blackstenius (6).

Subs used: Cooney-Cross (7), Russo (6), Miedema (6), Maanum (6), Foord (n/a).

Man Utd: Earps (7), Blundell (5), Le Tissier (5), Turner (6), Evans (4), Naalsund (6), Zelem (5), Geyse (6), Toone (5), Garcia (6), Parris (5).

Subs used: Galton (6), Williams (6), Ladd (5), Malard (5).

Player of the match: Beth Mead.

Arsenal could have added to their lead with Beth Mead denied by both posts after the break, before the visitors netted an injury-time consolation through Lucia Garcia to put some shine on an otherwise miserable afternoon for Skinner and his side.

Man Utd’s third defeat in five, and their fourth of the season, keeps them 10 points off the table but now seven points off the final European qualification spot, and potentially only two ahead of Liverpool and Spurs in fifth and sixth if they win their games in hand on Sunday.

How Arsenal re-ignited title hopes

Team news headlines

  • Jonas Eidevall made six changes to his Arsenal side from the one beaten by West Ham, including Leah Williamson who was ruled out by a hamstring injury.
  • Man Utd’s solitary change from their win over Brighton was enforced, with Jayde Riviere out with illness.

Jonas Eidevall made his feelings clear about his Arsenal side’s performance at West Ham by making six changes from that defeat, including three to his front line.

“We talk about being brave, and that includes me as a coach,” he later told Sky Sports. Brave and bold it had been, though it almost backfired instantly.

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Arsenal take an early lead as Maya Le Tissier puts the ball into her own net!

Goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo had already replaced Manuela Zinsberger in the FA Cup and retained her place for the WSL return. Her first involvement was to drop Zelem’s first-minute free-kick at the feet of Nikita Parris, who could not adjust in time to profit.

It proved just a false dawn for the beleaguered visitors, who failed to register a shot on target before the break and found themselves behind inside 10 minutes.

McCabe’s corner was met by Stina Blackstenius at the near post and flicked onto Geyse, who knew little about the touch which diverted the ball through Maya Le Tissier’s legs and beyond Earps.

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Arsenal’s flying Canadian winger Cloe Lacasse makes the most of a mistake in the Manchester United defence to double the hosts’ lead.

After struggling to build any early momentum the visitors finally recovered to enjoy their most positive spell of the game on the half-hour, only for Zelem’s risky clearance on the slide to tee-up Lacasse for a simple finish.

Arsenal have been criticised for their final ball this season but Eidevall’s changes proved the perfect tonic, as Little added a third from the spot a minute before the break after Mead’s tricky feet proved too fast for Turner.

She was later named player of the match and just lacked a goal of her own to add to a fine afternoon’s work. She was inches from finding one, striking the far post with a fine effort moments before Le Tissier’s deflection took another effort onto the near one.

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Kim Little sends Mary Earps the wrong way from the spot as Arsenal make it three in the first half!

Both sides appeared to know the game was done with few further opportunities at either end, and a number of players rested in the final 15 minutes.

That was only interrupted by Garcia’s simple finish after D’Angelo came for and missed an injury-time corner to give the visiting contingent of the record-breaking crowd something to cheer about late on.

Eidevall: ‘A lot’ of good results needed for title aspirations

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall speaking to Sky Sports:

“You need a lot of results like this to achieve what I and the club want to achieve. It was great today, but there’s a lot of football left to be played.

“Sometimes these [selection] decisions turn out good, and they did today. We talk about being brave, and that comes to me as a coach. I cannot put players on the pitch for their names; if we think another player will be more perfect for the gameplan, we need to do that.

“It was great to see a player like Cloe Lacasse who has worked really hard in training, playing with real self-confidence.

“She took her full-back on one-vs-one at least five times in the first half, and that created some really good momentum for us.

“It was a lot about the unit working together. Lotte [Wubben-Moy] on an individual level has been a stand-out player for us since the new year. She’s front-footed and steps out at some really crucial times to win the ball.”

Skinner: We had to be perfect – and we weren’t

Man Utd boss Marc Skinner speaking to Sky Sports:

“It’s probably where we were coming into the game. We have to be perfect in the big games, especially in a stadium like this with the fans.

“We weren’t like that in the first half, we were better in the second. There’s a lot to be excited about at Man Utd, INEOS coming in will help, but it’s where we are today. It hurts, but it’s where we are.

“The goals we conceded are just not good enough. The corner comes in and it looks like an own goal, a penalty we give away and a clearance which falls to the head of Lacasse who scores it. You can’t concede those goals.

“It’s disappointing, but you’ve got to look at it and try to get those out of your game. Today they weren’t, but the girls regrouped at half-time and got over the first half, kept a clean sheet and they can be proud of that.”

What’s next?

The WSL now takes a break for internationals. Arsenal have another huge game on their return, hosting Tottenham at the Emirates in the WSL on Sunday March 3; kick-off 12.30pm.

On the same day, Man Utd travel to West Ham in the WSL; kick-off 3pm.

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