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Manchester United 5 Birmingham City 0
Manchester United moved into the Women’s Champions League places as they proved too strong for relegation-threatened Birmingham City, who crashed straight back down to Earth just six days after claiming their first win of the season.
Birmingham had stunned the division and given their survival hopes a major boost by earning a shock victory over Arsenal last week - their first league win in 14 months - but they were unable to cope with Manchester United's attacking movement in the first half as they found themselves 3-0 down inside 18 minutes.
"It’s the high and lows of football, you get a fantastic result one week and then the game’s got a funny way of knocking you on your backside in the next," said Birmingham's interim head coach Darren Carter, who was unhappy with how quickly the contest got away from his team. "We came out flat and sluggish in those first 20 minutes. When you’re not at your best you’ve got to find a way to stay in the game and to concede three goals in the space of six or seven minutes, it’s criminal, it can’t happen.
"The players know the level they can hit and we got nowhere near that. The manner of the goals we conceded, that’s not what we’re about. We gave ourselves an uphill task."
For Manchester United head coach Marc Skinner - who was up against his former club - this was his side's fourth consecutive win in all competitions, a run which has seen them score 14 goals without conceding. Winger Leah Galton’s quick-fire double did the damage in the first half, shortly after she had set up the opener, a well-worked team goal that was clipped in by midfielder Katie Zelem.
England striker Alessia Russo saw a shot blocked on the line as the hosts enjoyed full control of the game, and they made it 4-0 on the stroke of half-time when England forward Ella Toone’s long-range strike struck the crossbar, bounced down and hit Birmingham goalkeeper Emily Ramsey before rolling over the line.
The own goal was unfortunate for Ramsey - who is on loan at Birmingham from Manchester United - but there was no luck involved in the overall result. Galton showed intelligent movement to dart into the six-yard box and slide in from right-wing crosses for both of her goals, as the hosts pulled Birmingham's backline out of shape at times and utilised wide areas well. It was another cross that led to the fifth goal, which was headed in with power by Russo in a much quieter second half.
The in-form hosts climbed to third, level on points with second-placed Chelsea, but the defending champions have two games in hand after their fixture that was scheduled for Sunday was called off on Friday because of Covid-19 cases and injuries in their opponents Everton’s squad. Birmingham remain anchored in the relegation fight but Skinner insisted he was not looking at the table.
"I don’t focus on other teams. We have to win what we can win. When you look outside, you lose your momentum," he said. "All we’ve spoken about this week is: If you want to win, stop worrying about those final places, stop worrying about being top of the table, stop worrying about getting to finals, and start concentrating solely on each game.
"It’s another five goals and another clean sheet. Sometimes we get a little bit of stick but it's probably only game 15 [since I took charge] and miracles don’t happen [overnight]. Hopefully you’re seeing the growth of the team and the way we want to play."
Manchester United (4-3-3): Earps; Batlle (Thorisdottir, 81), Mannion, Turner, Smith (Blundell, 62); Zelem, Boe Risa, Ladd (Thomas, 63); Toone, Russo (Groenen, 77), Galton (Fuso, 81)
Subs not used: Baggaley (gk), Hanson, Jones
Goals: Zelem 12, Galton 16, 18, Ramsey own goal 45, Russo 71
Birmingham City (5-3-2): Ramsey; Finn, Lawley, Lo Quinn, Scott, Holloway; Murray, Sarri (Ryan-Doyle, 86), Lu Quinn (Ewers, 75); Pennock (Whelan, 76), Smith (Whipp, 45)
Subs not used: Jones, Robertson, Cowie, Worsey, Jenner
Referee: Kirsty Dowle (Kent)