Albion missed the chance to close the gap on the top two in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League after losing 2-0 to Manchester United at the People’s Pension Stadium.
In front of a crowd of 1776, goals in each half by Hayley Ladd and Vilde Boe Risa were enough for United. There was no lack of effort and energy from Hope Powell’s side, but they struggled to create clear-cut chances and could have no argument that the better side won.
United, who began the day three points behind Albion, found keeper Meg Walsh in fine form from the start.
She denied Boe Risa at point-blank range in the third minute and was called into action again in the 25th minute when she pushed out another Boe Risa shot. Ella Toone was quickest to the loose ball but Maya Le Tissier produced a fantastic block to keep out her goalbound shot.
Albion had good spells of possession but they didn’t test United keeper Mary Earps, and after Walsh had again denied Boe Risa and Toone the visitors deservedly broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time. A well-worked corner routine saw Ona Batlle fire the ball into the box and it was helped into the bottom corner by Ladd.
Danielle Carter, who hadn’t been fit to start because of a foot injury, replaced Fliss Gibbons at the break but the visitors looked more likely to add to their lead and Walsh dived to her left to deny Boe Risa yet again then Toone blasted over from a great position ten yards out.
Albion made a second change in the 58th minute when Danique Kerkdijk, who had taken a knock a few minutes earlier, was replaced by Dani Bowman, who was making her first appearance of the season after recovering from a foot injury.
But United were in control and doubled their lead in the 69th minute. Russo broke down the right and her cross was turned in by Boe Risa, the ball going in off the far post.
United keeper Mary Earps was finally tested for the first time when she turned Ellie Brazil’s close-range shot over the bar but Walsh continued to impress, and she pulled off another great save when she blocked Aoife Mannings’ effort on the turn with her legs.
Albion kept going but found United’s defence hard to break down. They must regroup now with a Conti Cup tie against West Ham United, which they have to win to progress, to come on Wednesday.
Albion: Walsh, Kerkdijk (Bowman 58), Williams, Le Tissier, Koivisto, Whelan Bance (Robinson 71), Connolly, Gibbons (sub: Carter 45), Brazil (Symonds 85), Lee.
Subs not used: Green, Simpkins, Angel, Startup.