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Tottenham Hotspur Women 0-4 Manchester United Women: Melvine Malard shines in comfortable win

Bethany England (right) started for Spurs in her first appearance since playing for England in the World Cup final

Manchester United kept pace in the Women’s Super League title race with a comfortable victory at Tottenham Hotspur.

Melvine Malard starred, scoring twice and assisting Ella Toone for her side’s second goal, while Hayley Ladd added a late fourth.

United’s win keeps them four points behind leaders Chelsea and a point and a place off the Champions League spots.

Spurs are sixth and now winless in five league games.

“Tottenham have been a really good side this season and made it difficult for us in the first half,” England forward Toone told Sky Sports. “We showed that grit and character that we have in the team.

“It wasn’t always pretty, but we managed to get the three points, which is the main thing.”

United broke through shortly before the half-hour mark when miscommunication between Spurs keeper Becky Spencer and her defence allowed a deep Hannah Blundell cross to bounce between them and Malard got a toe to the ball to steer it home.

Toone then raced on to Malard’s lofted ball and finished past Spencer early in the second half, before United’s French number nine curled home a first-time shot from the edge of the box.

Ladd rounded off the scoring with six minutes left – a smart finish from 18 yards past the wrong-footed Spencer for the 11th goal Spurs have conceded in their last two matches.

A sole source of comfort in their first home league defeat of the season was the return of striker Bethany England. Spurs’ England international played 55 minutes in her first game of the season following hip surgery.

“It was an even game in the first half,” Spurs manager Robert Vilahamn told Sky Sports. “We protected the goal well and created counter-attacks, but they scored too many goals. They had around five shots so they are effective with their chances.

“And then we lost our head a little bit, but we played against a very good team. This is where we are now and we tried to play, but we do need to work a little bit more.”

United maintain fine away form to match Arsenal and City

With Arsenal’s statement win over Chelsea earlier on Sunday and Manchester City finding form – including a 7-0 thrashing of Spurs before the international break – United needed victory here to stay in touch with the top three, let alone keep their WSL title dreams alive.

“If we hadn’t won tonight and Tottenham had, the gap would have been huge,” United manager Marc Skinner told Sky Sports. “Right now it is four points. We have two tough games ahead, one in the Continental Cup, and who knows what happens after those. But it is exciting.

“We’re not worried about what other teams do, we have to focus on our own performance and tonight we did that. That is what we have to get back to. Zoning in on us and getting back to our best, and we will destroy teams.”

It was the perfect time for Malard, signed in the summer from Lyon to replace Arsenal-bound Alessia Russo, to produce her most fruitful display in English football so far.

She was one of two players to come into the starting XI as changes from the victory at Bristol City before the international break, replacing Geyse.

While Geyse has greater pace and trickery, Malard produced a fine all-round striker’s display – a poacher’s instinct for the opener, creativity from deep for the second goal and composure for the third.

It has been an inconsistent campaign for Marc Skinner’s side, but their away form – 13 points and the joint most in the division alongside Arsenal – has maintained their hopes of a maiden WSL trophy.

Spurs struggle despite England return

For Spurs, forward England’s fitness is essential. She scored 12 goals in as many WSL matches last season after joining from Chelsea in January to help them move away from relegation danger.

England almost scored seven minutes into her return. Martha Thomas’ low shot was well saved by Mary Earps, and England stabbed in the rebound only to see it blocked on the line by Maya le Tissier.

It was ultimately a frustrating comeback for England, who was visibly unhappy at being substituted early in the second half.

“Yes I wanted to play more, the physios are doing their job and I appreciate we have a big job – I have to walk before I can run,” she told Sky Sports of being subbed.

“I had a chance in the first half and it would have changed the dynamics of the game if I scored, but it is what it is.”

While they may have their main woman back up front, the form of Thomas is now a concern for Vilahamn.

After six goals in her first four WSL matches, the Scot has not netted in the last five since a hat-trick against Aston Villa.

Vilahamn also has problems to solve in defence, with Spurs’ run without a WSL clean sheet now extending to 15 games.

Line-ups

Tottenham Women

Formation 4-4-2

  • 22Spencer
  • 29Neville
  • 4Turner
  • 5Bartrip
  • 3Zadorsky
  • 14Bizet IldhusøySubstituted forPetzelbergerat 80′minutes
  • 12Percival
  • 15James
  • 7NazBooked at 49minsSubstituted forAyaneat 56′minutes
  • 17ThomasSubstituted forZhangat 80′minutes
  • 9EnglandSubstituted forGrahamat 56′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Votíková
  • 11Petzelberger
  • 13But
  • 16Graham
  • 18Zhang
  • 21Bühler
  • 23Ayane
  • 26Pearse
  • 47Boughton

Man Utd Women

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 27Earps
  • 14Riviere
  • 4The Tissier
  • 21TurnerSubstituted forEvansat 87′minutes
  • 6Blundell
  • 10I want it
  • 12Ladd
  • 22ParrisSubstituted forGarcíaat 67′minutes
  • 7ToneSubstituted forNaalsundat 87′minutes
  • 11GaltonSubstituted forWilliamsat 82′minutes
  • 9MalardSubstituted forda Silva Ferreiraat 67′minutes

Substitutes

  • 15Evans
  • 16Naalsund
  • 17García
  • 23da Silva Ferreira
  • 28Williams
  • 39Middleton-Patel
  • 91Tullis-Joyce

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