FA Women’s Championship: First home league reverse for Charlton as Zelem inspires Manchester United

BY WILL BECKMAN

Charlton suffered their first home loss in the FA Women’s Championship as Katie Zelem scored one and set up another to take Manchester United top of the table on Sunday.

The midfielder converted a penalty in the 57th minute after Ella Toone’s shot struck Charlotte Gurr on the arm, before providing the assist for Jess Sigsworth’s close-range header.

Substitute Kit Graham’s fine strike gave Riteesh Mishra’s side hope of a comeback.

United are two points clear of Tottenham after their defeat to Sheffield United and eight ahead of third-placed Charlton with five games left.

The fixture was supposed to be played on January 13, but the game was abandoned following a serious injury to Addicks defender Charlotte Kerr.

Kerr was back in the starting 11 for the rescheduled match and played her part in a solid first-half performance, as United struggled to make their possession count.

Sigsworth saw her goal-bound lob cleared by Amelia Ritchie before captain Alex Greenwood’s shot was saved from close range, but they were the only chances Casey Stoney’s side created in an uneventful opening 45.

However, the visitors piled the pressure on after the break and found the breakthrough just before the hour mark when Gurr’s handball allowed Zelem to score from the spot.

Charlton had no time to respond before Zelem turned provider for the second, crossing for Sigsworth to head in her 12th league goal of the season.

Graham’s curling finish gave the Addicks a lifeline with eight minutes left but they never threatened to breach the league’s best defence for a second time before the final whistle.

“We always knew it was going to be a hard one,” said Graham.

“United are a very strong team, very clinical. We came with a game-plan to frustrate them and I think we did that in the first half, but then obviously legs tire.

“United are a professional team and they showed that with their clinical finishing, but you can’t really fault the girls. We put in a shift and that’s all we needed to do.

“You come into these sorts of games and you either have to go for it or sit off and try to frustrate them. We did the latter and we executed it well.

“I didn’t actually see my goal go in, I was on the floor as I struck it in. I heard the roar of the crowd though – so it must have been alright! It’s nice to get on the scoresheet but it’s a shame for the result.”

Zelem said: “It was clear to see we were getting quite frustrated in the first half. The pitch didn’t help and they set up pretty defensively. We knew it was going to happen but you do get frustrated in the moment.

“When we went in at half-time we said we needed to be patient, and we came out a different team in the second half.

“We’d had most of the ball and they’d barely got out of their own half, so it was just about turning that possession into something more penetrative and getting our shots on goal.

“If you’ve got a lot of the ball you hope the goal is going to come at some point. We just used the spaces better and made sure we were more patient in our play.”

To follow all of the action during the season and to buy tickets, visit www.ticketstores.co.uk/fawsl/

PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD

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