Leah Galton leads Manchester United’s 5-0 WSL demolition of Birmingham

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Manchester United leapfrogged Tottenham to move into third with a blistering defeat of Birmingham to kickstart their year. Marc Skinner’s side, in search of Champions League qualification for the first time, sit a point above Spurs and four away from the leaders, Arsenal, albeit having played a game more after Covid cancellations hit scheduling.

United had clearly heeded the warning of the increased threat of Birmingham after their impressive 2-0 win over Arsenal last week. The Blues stunned the undefeated Gunners to secure a first win of the season.

Related: Manchester United’s Ella Toone: ‘The last year has been amazing and overwhelming’

Within minutes of kick-off, United’s intent was clear, as the Norway midfielder Vilde Bøe Risa forced a fine save from Emily Ramsey with the follow-up cleared off the line.

Ramsey, on loan from United for the season, had performed well in the victory over Arsenal but there was little she could do with her team failing to stem wave after wave of her parent club’s attacks.

At the heart of the home team’s dynamic play was Leah Galton, the winger providing an assist and scoring twice within six first-half minutes to quash any confidence Birmingham may have had after lifting themselves off the bottom of the table.

First, she cut back for Katie Zelem, who clipped the ball over Ramsey with one touch. Then, Galton pounced on Alessia Russo’s teasing ball across the face of goal, with Louise Quinn unable to divert its trajectory, to fire in from close range.

Arsenal's fixture against Reading in the Women's Super League on Sunday has been postponed due to Covid-19 cases and injuries in the visiting side's squad, both clubs said on Saturday. "In light of the increased rate of transmissions from the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the FA will review the circumstances surrounding the postponement and continue work with affected clubs," Reading said in a statement. This is the second WSL game to be called off this week after Chelsea had their third game in a row cancelled on Friday when their match with Everton was postponed for the similar reasons. Leaders Arsenal have 25 points from 10 games, nine points ahead of sixth-placed Reading. PA Media

Two minutes later she had her second. A line-splitting pass from the right-back Ona Batlle was met by Ella Toone, whose cross found Galton and she fired in near the far post.

Those body-blows were just reward for the tactical upending of the previously well-organised Birmingham under their interim manager, Darren Carter. The fourth goal was particularly cruel, as Toone’s swerving strike from distance crashed off the underside of the bar before bouncing off Ramsey’s back and in.

All but over, the game was quieter after the restart but there was time for Russo to head in a cross from the substitute Hannah Blundell.

Birmingham will be back at the bottom if Leicester, one point behind, can get a result at home to Brighton on Sunday.

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