Manchester City salvaged a derby day point in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United in the the Women's Super League thanks to a stooping header from Laura Coombs after Leah Galton opened the scoring for the visitors at the Etihad Stadium.
The game was played out in front of a crowd of 44,259 -- a record attendance for a City women's match -- and those fans witnessed an evenly matched battle between the two Manchester teams.
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"It felt like a cup final today, not a WSL game," City boss Gareth Taylor said. "The energy and effort and, at times, the quality was a really good level."
Despite seeing less of the ball during the opening exchanges, it was United who opened the scoring 27 minutes in, with the visitors exploiting their opponent's narrowed defence. Following some neat interplay with Ella Toone, Galton pulled the trigger from inside the box, the ball deflecting off Alex Greenwood to wrong-foot City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
The rest of the half highlighted how well balanced United are at the moment, both from top to bottom and left to right, with the team spreading themselves across the spacious Etihad pitch. The visitors began to control the match, pulling the home defence out of position while remaining hard to break down.
The visitors easily could have made it two when Hannah Blundell streaked forward with the ball, looking to play Nikita Parris into a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, the move snuffed out by an expertly timed sliding challenge from Leila Ouahabi.
City showed renewed vigour in the second half as they began to probe and poke around in and around the United defence, finding gaps that had not been there before.
A floated cross from Chloe Kelly drew the two sides level as the defence failed to pick up Coombs when she made her way into the box and powered a header home after Bunny Shaw missed her connection at the near post.
Much more assured after their goal, the hosts leant back into their strong league history against United, the blue half of Manchester coming into the tie without having surrendered a point to their neighbours. The United defence that has looked so composed this season so far suddenly began to wobble as the hosts looked for a winning goal, with Kelly coming close after the hour.
As the game wound down into the last ten minutes, the chances began to mount for both sides, with Shaw coming close at one end before Martha Thomas drew a fine save from Roebuck at the other. With the chances still flying in into stoppage time, United had a legitimate claim for a penalty waved away after Alex Greenwood appeared to handle the ball in the area -- but both teams cancelled each other out.
"I'm frustrated with the result but not the performance," United boss Marc Skinner said. "We've still got lots to work on and to do. We will continue to evolve this team ... As a coach, it is the most pleasing thing to see them taking on responsibility, showing their personality."
Taylor added: "We want to win the league. We win all our games in the second half of the season and we can win the league. We've put ourselves in a position [to do that], but there's a lot of hard work to do."