An own goal, a disallowed equaliser, and an Ellen White double made this Manchester derby one to remember. Jessy Parker-Humphreys recaps all the drama, with highlights from the weekend’s other FA Cup fixtures.
Football rivalries rarely correspond neatly between the men’s and women’s game. Historical and financial disparities between clubs who have varied fan bases means that ‘derby’ fixtures often don’t carry the same meaning. Yet the competition between Manchester United and Manchester City has heated up significantly this season as United’s rapid rise into professionalised women’s football has put the two teams on a pretty even footing.
The teams faced up to open the Women’s Super League season back in September, with Caroline Weir’s long range effort for City the only way to separate them, before Manchester United beat them in their Continental Cup group. In that game, United put two goals past Ellie Roebuck. Only Atletico Madrid and Chelsea have managed to do the same this season. The teams being drawn against each other in the FA Cup made a clear choice for the most high profile tie of the fourth round.
It was also a match that seemed like it could easily go either way — and the opening stages of the game did nothing to dispel that feeling, with Manchester United’s high press dispossessing Manchester City several times on the edge of their area. United struggled to capitalise on City’s indecision in defence, and they missed Leah Galton on the wing to test Georgia Stanway at makeshift right-back. Instead it was United playing out from the back that allowed City to open the scoring, with Ellen White punishing Abbie McManus’s poor back pass.
By the time Lauren James replaced Jane Ross up front, there was a sense that the game was beyond United. Another goal from Ellen White had put City in cruise control until James calmly drilled the ball home from inside the area. United thought they had equalised from a corner which looked like it was bundled over the line — but the referee ruled it out. And despite Lauren Hemp scoring an own goal after Jill Scott added City’s third, City were able to hold on for the win.
Casey Stoney clearly missed a trick by not starting James who looked constantly tricky throughout her 30 minute appearance. The selection of Ross was perhaps a nod to experience — James has been rash in some of her performances this season — but it meant that United lost the unpredictability that so rattled City during the final third of the game.
The last three games of Nick Cushing’s managerial position at Manchester City were games that could make or break their season across three competitions. With the first job done against geographical rivals, they now face back-to-back fixtures with Arsenal: home and away in the Continental Cup and then in the WSL.
The best of the rest
You might have been surprised that, despite all evidence to the contrary from the FA Player and BBC, there were actually 15 other FA Cup ties on Sunday. Even Jordan Nobbs had to resort to watching Arsenal beat West Ham 2-0 via a fan stream in the other all-WSL tie from the round.
It was not really a day for upsets. Billericay Town pushed Lewes all the way before losing on penalties at the Dripping Pan whilst Bristol City required a winner in extra time to see off Championship Durham.
Liverpool picked up a confidence-boosting 8-1 win against a Blackburn side who only had 11 senior players available. Rinsola Babajide showed that when it rains, it pours, ending her disappointing record in front of goal by scoring four. Vicky Jepson will be hoping she can take that kind of form back into the league.
In the battle of the Southamptons, Southampton FC Women lost to Coventry at St Mary’s whilst Southampton Women FC have been given one of the biggest reprieves in FA Cup history. The match against Crystal Palace was abandoned after 78 minutes — at which point Palace were 3-0 up. On Monday the FA announced the game would be replayed in full, just in case Southampton were going to muster a three-goal comeback in 12 minutes.
The biggest surprise was fourth division Ipswich Town beating Huddersfield to reach the last 16 for the first time in their history thanks to a hat-trick from 16-year-old Maddie Biggs to secure a 4-1 win. Chelsea were also helped into the fourth round thanks to a 16 year old: Emily Murphy scored twice in her first senior start for the club as they comfortably beat 2005 winners Charlton 4-0.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph