Aston Villa started their FA Women’s Continental League Cup by edging out Manchester United 4-3 on penalties in a dramatic shootout where seven spot-kicks were saved.
Villa goalkeeper Anna Leat was the hero, keeping out the efforts of Hayley Ladd, Ella Toone, Hannah Blundell and Ona Batlle before Maz Pacheco slotted home the winner at the Bescot Stadium.
The sides could not be separated over 90 minutes, with Nikita Parris’s first goal since joining United in the summer cancelled out by Rachel Daly, who has now found the net four times in three games this season. A 1-1 draw meant both sides collected a point apiece in this Group A fixture, but there was an additional bonus point on offer for the shootout winners.
While United’s Sophie Baggaley kept out penalties from Daly, Kenza Dali and Natasha Harding, it was Leat and then Pacheco who had the decisive say for Villa.
The Manchester United head coach, Marc Skinner, said: “For me, we had two leading positions in the game, and I’ve just said to them [the players] most games are about psyche – we must win the games when we are on top; when we are winning 1-0, we don’t let a team in, when we are winning on penalties, we don’t let a team in and that is what I am going to keep challenging our players to do that psyche to turn us into the team we want to be.”