Caroline Weir's super strike earns Manchester City bragging rights over United after historic derby clash
Scot's long-range finish seals win in Women's Super League in front of 31,000 fans at the Etihad Stadium
It counted as a spectacular start to a rivalry. If the first goal in a Manchester derby in the Women’s Super League was always going to have a statistical distinction, Caroline Weir’s strike will be remembered for plenty of other reasons.
The Scot’s rising strike from 25 yards was still rising when it nestled in the Manchester United net. It gave Manchester City a winning start to the season and her a place in history.
It will linger in minds, too, because it was witnessed by a record crowd for the division, with 31,213 at the Etihad Stadium. Many a top-flight men’s game has a smaller attendance.
The hordes at the Etihad included one of the greatest goalscorers of his generation. The watching Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have admired the execution, even if, like the red enclave behind the goal Weir found with such uncanny accuracy, he probably did not savour the strike.
The United faithful almost had an equaliser to savour, albeit an unorthodox one. The United debutant Jackie Groenen represented an ambitious signing, having helped Holland reach the World Cup final. She almost marked her bow with a fortunate goal.
There was much to like about her solo run into the City box. But then the home side’s new right-back Aoife Mannion’s attempted clearance cannoned into Groenen, past the helpless goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck and on to the post.
United may consider themselves unfortunate to lose their maiden game at this level. They had cruised to promotion last season, suffering a solitary defeat, dropping only five points and ending with a goal difference of 91. In many respects, they made a positive start to life in the top flight.
Theirs is a new-look team. Captain Alex Greenwood left in the summer and manager Casey Stoney selected six summer signings in her starting 11. One impressed as they almost struck first.
Roebuck made a brilliant save to claw away Jane Ross’ half-volley after the Scottish striker met Leah Galton’s inviting cross. The elusive Ross posed problems and Roebuck had to intervene to spare Demi Stokes an own goal after the defender attempted to halt the United debutant. Ross also supplied some fine crosses from the right flank in a game to suggest she will prove an excellent signing.
City, meanwhile, were subdued initially, even though they, with Mannion the only newcomer beginning the game, boasted the greater continuity. They did not test United’s new goalkeeper Mary Earps until the stroke of half-time when the former Wolfsburg goalkeeper held Weir’s well-struck half-volley.
But they emerged the stronger as United tired in the second half. After Weir struck, they had opportunities to extend their lead. Janine Beckie fired over the bar after a break from her own half. Georgia Stanway, who also cleared the crossbar, was another who could have doubled the lead.
City were without Ellen White, their summer signing and the World Cup’s joint top scorer, who is recovering from knee surgery. With Nikita Parris, their leading scorer last season, gone to Lyon, they needed someone else to step up. Weir did, and how.
Updated: September 7, 2019 09:04 PM