It was a historic day on Filbert Way as 4,473 supporters turned out to watch the Foxes’ opening home fixture of the 2021/22 campaign, creating a vibrant atmosphere throughout.
Four changes were made to the Leicester side that narrowly lost to Aston Villa last weekend, with Lachante Paul, Sophie Howard, Ashleigh Plumptre and Jemma Purfield coming in for Abbie McManus, Sophie Barker, Hannah Cain and Shannon O’Brien.
Plumptre captained the side in Barker’s absence while Purfield was making her home bow and five of City’s WSL Academy Team were also present on the bench, including Mackenzie Smith, who was introduced for a WSL debut in the second half.
Kirstie Levell was called into action almost immediately after kick-off to keep out Kirsty Hanson with a diving save, before collecting Lucy Staniforth’s deflected effort.
City’s first chance, meanwhile, came when former United forward Jess Sigsworth took aim from outside the area, but saw her effort loop over the bar. Another opportunity fell to the Foxes when Natasha Flint took the ball onto her left and forced England 'keeper Mary Earps into a smart low stop.
Back at the other end, Ella Toone’s shot came back off the bar and Staniforth again tested Levell, who did well to parry her powerful strike away during a frantic opening 20 minutes.
Paul, making her first start of the season, then dragged a shot wide mid-way through the first period, but it was the visitors doing the majority of the attacking as the half wore on.
And Levell could do nothing to prevent Toone’s ferocious strike from 25 yards out nestling into the top of the net just under 10 minutes before the break.
Both sides continued to create opportunities with Molly Pike's deflected effort landing kindly for Earps, while Toone tried to turn provider, finding Hanson in space, but she was unable to find the target, shooting over, ahead of Leah Galton also striking off target.
But just two minutes into the second half, the away side grabbed a second. Substitute Maria Thorisdottir, who replaced Millie Turner when the United centre-back had to be stretchered off, finished into the bottom corner after Staniforth’s initial header had been cleared off the line.
At 2-0, the Red Devils threatened further goals as Staniforth struck wide twice in succession and Jackie Groenen hit another effort just over the top of the bar.
The experienced visitors could have had their third when Hanson played the ball across to Galton, who only had Levell to beat, but City’s stopper stood tall to prevent a seemingly certain goal.
Leicester kept plugging away themselves, though, and when Flint’s cross was diverted towards goal by Pike, it took a fine save from Earps to deny her.
The home side's breakthrough finally came shortly after the hour mark - much to the delight of the home faithful.
McManus, on as a substitute five minutes earlier, headed in Charlie Devlin’s corner on her home debut and, although referee Elizabeth Simms did not initially award the goal, it was clear the ball had crossed the line.
That goal sparked another charge from Marc Skinner’s side, however, and after Hannah Blundell shot wide of the far post, Ona Batlle and Groenen both hit the woodwork.
The third goal which wrapped up all three points soon arrived. United’s No.9, Martha Thomas came off the bench to find it, making no mistake inside the box, poking the ball into the far corner with just under 20 minutes to play.
With the away side in the mood for more, Plumptre prevented a fourth by clearing the ball off the line after Hanson had rounded Levell, ahead of Thomas and Alessia Russo both failing to find the target.
Esmee De Graaf then saw her long-range shot blocked ahead of Plumptre heading Devlin’s corner off target late on, but it was the visitors who claimed victory.
A fantastic moment as Abbie McManus celebrated scoring on her home debut.
It may have only proved to be a consolation, but Abbie McManus’ header on 61 minutes was a landmark first home goal in the WSL. The roar from the 4,000-strong crowd was testament to that and will always be remembered as a special moment, despite the end result.
Ex-Everton shot-stopper Kirstie Levell was on fine form for the Foxes.
There were strong performances within City’s ranks, but Kirstie Levell in particular pulled off some magnificent saves throughout the contest and was unfortunate to end the day having conceded three.
Where does it leave us?
Over 4,000 supporters packed out the West Stand, showing their support for the newly-promoted Foxes.
LCFC Women are ninth in the current Barclays FA Women’s Super League standings, with Birmingham City, Reading and Everton also waiting to get off the mark for the season.
City battled on until the end at King Power Stadium.
Following the first international break of the season, City resume WSL duties with a trip to face West Ham United at Chigwell Construction Stadium in Dagenham on Sunday 26 September (3pm kick-off).
City: Levell, Howard, Brougham, Plumptre (c), Purfield (De Graaf 56'), Bailey-Gayle (Devlin 45'), Pike, Tierney (McManus 56'), Paul (Smith 56'), Flint, Sigsworth.
Subs not used: Lambourne, Camwell, Brown, Powell, Brooks.
Goal: McManus 61’
All times BST.
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