Man United edge thriller with Aston Villa to keep WSL title bid on track

Millie Turner celebrates her crucial late winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa.
Nathan Stirk - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Millie Turner's stoppage-time winner spared Manchester United's blushes as they fought back to win 3-2 at Aston Villa and keep their advantage at the top of the WSL in pursuit of their first top-flight title.

With less than 20 seconds of stoppage time remaining, Turner, who was only brought on as a substitute in the 88th minute, got above her marker to hammer a header into the bottom right corner to spark ecstatic celebrations.

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The victory takes Man Untied six points clear of second-placed Manchester City and seven ahead of Chelsea in third. However, Chelsea still have three games in hand while City have one.

Starting the game in the same imperious fashion they ended their last league meeting with Villa -- a 5-0 win at Old Trafford last December -- United were shocked when the hosts took the lead less than 10 minutes in. The Red Devils had yet to concede from a set piece in their previous 18 games, but that record that was swiftly dashed when Rachel Daly rose at a Lucy Staniforth corner to glance a header into the top right corner.

The league leaders drew level just six minutes later when Ona Batlle dashed down the right flank and deftly curled the ball across the face of goal for Leah Galton to volley home.

Consistently looking dangerous as set plays, Villa came close to retaking the lead moments later when Staniforth's smart corner delivery landed on Anna Patten's head, but the defender could only divert her effort against the bar.

As well as having had plenty of joy defending set pieces this season, United had been at their best when attacking free kicks and corners and very nearly took the lead themselves in a frantic passage of play. Aoife Mannion's effort on the rebound was half-cleared by Daly before Galton took aim from inside the box, only to be denied by the outstretched glove of Hannah Hampton.

Once again, when the visitors were looking their most dangerous, it was the hosts who found the back of the net. Daly was again the scourge, as her well controlled side-footed half-volley left Mary Earps grasping at air as it arrowed into the far side of her goal.

United thought they'd found an equaliser on the stroke of half-time but referee Lisa Benn had already blown her whistle before Hayley Ladd's header crossed Hampton's goal line.

After Alessia Russo headed over at a corner at one end, Daly saw her strike crash against bar and stay out, denying her a perfect hat trick as well as keeping the two sides close at the Bescot Stadium.

It proved to be a costly miss as less than two minutes later, Nikita Parris hammered Hannah Blundell's floated cross home from close range to bring the two sides level with less than 30 minutes to play.

Top of the table but being chased down by Manchester City and Chelsea, United found a greater sense of urgency and began to hound the home defence before Turner's dramatic late intervention.