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Player ratings as Garcia & Batlle shine in east London

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Manchester United made it two consecutive wins at the start of the WSL season with an impressive performance against West Ham on the road to keep pace with Arsenal at the top of the table.

A quickfire double early in the second half decided the game, a first United goal from summer signing Lucia Garcia and one from left-back Hannah Blundell. Leah Galton also had the ball in the net in the goal-less first half but adjudged borderline offside. West Ham threatened in parts but were largely second best and ultimately couldn’t match the quality of their opponents.

The visitors completely dominated the early stages and Ona Batlle grazed the top of the bar from a crossing position after spotting goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold off her line. Moments later, a devilish Katie Zelem corner saw Kate Longhurst block the ball on the line.

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The early combination between the direct Garcia and international teammate Batlle was causing West Ham plenty of problems and looked like it would be United’s best route through.

Arnold saved from both Alessia Russo and Blundell from distance as the first half progressed, but West Ham started to gain more of a foothold. Millie Turner even had to hook the ball away near the goal-line at one stage as the hosts built into a decent spell towards the end of the half.

Mary Earps also saved comfortably from Dagny Brynjarsdottir but expressed his displeasure with her defence after the chance had been presented by a poor clearance from Turner.

Turner actually had one of the best chances of the whole first half with the last touch of the first half, heading wide from inside the six-yard box. Early in the second half, the same player headed straight at Arnold to be denied again.

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Garcia’s goal soon after that chance was nothing less than she deserved. The Spanish winger raced onto Le Tissier’s ball forward, shrugging off the attention of Hawa Cissoko, before rounding the onrushing Arnold and calmly finishing from a tight angle.

United were painfully pegged back with a stoppage time equaliser in this fixture last season but quickly doubled their lead with Blundell’s first time finish from Batlle’s smart cutback to the edge of the penalty area. Ella Toone had played a major part in helping create the chance.

There was still a warning sign from West Ham when Viviane Asseyi, a player largely starved of service, picked up a loose ball, rolled Turner and flashed a powerful low shot only just wide. West Ham also had a goal chalked off when defender Lucy Parker scored from an offside position, although it was initially allowed to stand amid some confusion.

Parker stopped Russo from making it 3-0 as the second half wore on, flying in to block a goal-bound strike, while Arnold’s fingertips spectacularly turned a Katie Zelem lob over the bar.

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Jessica Ziu, Maya Le Tissier

It was a tough afternoon for West Ham / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

GK: Mackenzie Arnold – 7/10 – Showed good handling a number of times when under pressure at corners. Beaten twice but still made good saves.

RB: Risa Shimizu – 6/10 – Largely coped well wit Galton as the biggest threats came down the opposite flank.

CB: Lucy Parker – 6/10 – Tasked with playing out from the back more than her centre-back partner. A few good blocks and had a goal disallowed.

CB: Hawa Cissoko – 6/10 – Generally pretty good when faced with potentially dangerous one-on-one situations. But she couldn’t match Garcia’s strength for the first goal.

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LB: Kirsty Smith – 5/10 – Had her hands full with Garcia against her old club.

CM: Kate Longhurst – 5/10 –
Cleared off the line in the opening minutes. Struggled to compete in midfield.

CM: Dagny Brynjarsdottir (c) – 4/10 – Able to push further forward in the second after a quiet opening 45 minutes but still lacked much involvement.

RM: Lisa Evans – 6/10 – Swapped to the left midway through the first half where her defensive experience was needed.

AM: Honoka Hayashi – 4/10 – Really struggled to influence things and was sacrificed at half-time.

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LM: Jessica Ziu – 5/10 – Found it difficult looking over her shoulder to track Batlle. Looked better after moving to the right but taken off after an hour.

ST: Viviane Asseyi – 6/10 –
Forced to feed off scraps with West Ham struggling to create much in open play. Still posed a threat.

SUB: Abbey-Leigh Stringer (46′ for Hayashi) – 6/10

SUB: Izzy Atkinson (59′ for Ziu) – 6/10

SUB: Claudia Walker (68′ for Evans) – 5/10

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SUB: Halle Hussein (84′ for ) – N/A

SUB: Thea Kyvag (84′ for ) – N/A

Manager: Paul Konchesky – 5/10 –
His team held their own in the first half, but he didn’t have an answer when the visitors’ quality took decisive hold.

Hawa Cissoko, Lucia Garcia

Lucia Garcia got the better of Hawa Cissoko / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Didn’t have to do that much.

RB: Ona Batlle – 9/10 – Played with her usual attacking intent and even grazed the bar early on. Assisted the crucial second goal.

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CB: Maya Le Tissier – 7/10 – Showcased an impressive range of passing, which ultimately gave her an assist for the crucial breakthrough goal, and always looking to receive the ball. A couple of shaky defensive moments.

CB: Millie Turner – 6/10 – Missed a glorious headed chance right before half-time and was a constant threat from set-pieces. Not at her best defensively here.

LB: Hannah Blundell – 7/10 –
Often overshadowed by Batlle but combined well with her opposite number to score a very good goal.

CM: Katie Zelem (c) – 7/10 – Set piece delivery was again excellent. Always looked in control with the ball in open play too.

CM: Hayley Ladd – 8/10 – Broke up play that gave United control in midfield.

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AM: Ella Toone – 7/10 – Often involved in United’s attacking play and made the opening for Batlle to set up the second goal.

RW: Lucia Garcia – 9/10 – Tested the Hammers from the start with pace and direct running. Her goal was very well taken and thoroughly deserved.

ST: Alessia Russo – 7/10 –
Clearly a physical threat but also didn’t limited herself to just playing ‘between the posts’ either. Worked hard.

LW: Leah Galton – 6/10 – Saw a first half strike disallowed by an offside flag.

SUB: Martha Thomas (80′ for Russo) – 6/10

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SUB: Jade Moore (80′ for Toone) – 7/10

SUB: Adriana Leon (80′ for Garcia) – 6/10

SUB: Nikita Parris (88′ for Galton) – N/A

Manager: Marc Skinner – 8/10 – Resisted the temptation to make changes at half-time and was rewarded for his patience. Was then able to switch things up in the closing stages to get minutes for more of his squad.

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Player of the match: Lucia Garcia

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Katie Zelem discusses the ‘catch 22’ Man Utd face ahead of Old Trafford return

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Manchester United captain Katie Zelem has described the two-week break since a momentous WSL win over Arsenal as ‘catch 22’ for the squad because that time out of action before facing Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Saturday has both positive and negative implications.

Having lost to Chelsea in early November, their first league defeat of the season, United responded by mounting a 3-2 comeback win at the Emirates Stadium when club football resumed after the recent international break.

Another two-week pause in the club schedule, during which time United have played a behind closed doors friendly, has offered both the chance for rest for starters and minutes for those less involved so far this season. But there is a risk that positive momentum fades.

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“It’s catch 22 in football. Everyone is dying for a break, but equally when you’ve got a good run of momentum, you want to keep it going,” Zelem said of the paradoxical situation.

“We’ve got to look at it as a positive. People were able to get minutes in a friendly match we played. We obviously had a hard week of training and it means we’ve been able to prep properly for the Villa game. Often, when there are really busy three game weeks, it reduces your prep time.

“As a team, we’re in a really good place going into the weekend and we all can’t wait.”

United manager Marc Skinner welcomed the opportunity for rest, insisting that it is the team that is responsible for nurturing momentum.

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“It was probably a good moment to recharge, get everybody fresh and just make sure we’re competitive within the team because that’s the real driving factor for us,” Skinner explained.

“I’ve said this before, whether it’s a loss going into a break, or a win going into a break, it’s about us taking charge of momentum.”

As far as the game itself, United have won on both previous occasions they have played at Old Trafford – against West Ham in 2021 and Everton earlier in 2022 – and find familiarity that the pitch dimensions are actually the same as at usual home stadium Leigh Sports Village.

Even if the setting will obviously be different because of the much larger stands that surround the grass, it feeds into their preferred style of play and makes the transition smoother.

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“We pride ourselves on keeping the ball and building our attacks. For us, at Old Trafford that will be vitally important,” Zelem went on to say.

“We know that Villa will try and catch us on the break and they’ve got a lot of attacking threats. We need to look at it like we’re playing at Leigh…it’s obviously a lot harder when there are so many more people and huge stands around you. It’s just another game for us and that’s how we’re taking it.”

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Club Leon appoint Nicolas Larcamon as new head coach

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Club Leon has appointed Nicolas Larcamon as the new head coach, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura. 

He replaces Renato Paiva, who announced his departure just days ago.

Larcamon now joins after serving as head of Puebla for two years, where he managed a record of 27W-21L-32D in 80 Liga MX games total. During the 2022 Liga MX Apertura, Larcamon inspired Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarter-finals before falling to Club America. 

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He announced his resignation from Puebla shortly after being eliminated from the Liguilla, claiming the team needed ‘renewed energy’.

“The truth is that the decision is mine, obviously that the perspectives of what is coming for the team at all levels are taken into account a little, which is going to be very challenging,” he said to TUDN.

”That is why I understood it very fair to give the place to someone with renewed energy, with maximum motivation, the institution deserves it. There were four tournaments of great intensity, demands, where we were always at our best, and the decision had more to do with these issues. There was a lot of speculation, it coincided with Piojo in Tigres, but it has nothing to do with it. it was a decision made days before and we were only in negotiations.”

He will now take on new challenges with Club Leon. 

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The team concluded the 2022 Apertura in 10th place, qualifying to the Liguilla playoff match before losing 1-0 to Cruz Azul. 

Leon kicks off the 2023 Clausura on January 6, against Mazatlan.

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Ben White leaves England World Cup squad due to ‘personal reasons’

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Arsenal star Ben White has left England’s World Cup training camp and isn’t expected to return for the remainder of the tournament.

The defender didn’t make an appearance in any of the Three Lions group stage games, and has now left the squad due to ‘personal reasons’.

In a statement released by England, the Three Lions confirmed the news: “Ben White has left England’s training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

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Harry Symeou hosts Jack Gallagher and Toby Cudworth to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament. We ask that the player’s privacy is respected at this moment in time.”

White has enjoyed a fantastic domestic season with Arsenal, becoming the club’s first choice right-back – and one of the best right-backs in the Premier League – as the Gunners have gone from top four challengers to table-toppers.

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