Caroline Weir’s stunning long-range strike gave Manchester City victory over rivals Manchester United in the first Women’s Super League derby in front of a record crowd of more than 31,000 at Etihad Stadium.
Scotland midfielder Weir, 24, pounced on a loose clearance from Katie Zelem and drilled a powerful shot into the top right corner from 25 yards three minutes after half-time.
City had been frustrated in the first half and the visitors could have equalised late on through Jackie Groenen when she hit the inside of the left post with five minutes of normal time left to play.
The 31,213 in attendance was almost six times the previous WSL record of 5,265 that saw Arsenal clinch last season’s title at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
With the women playing at the men’s ground for the first time since 2014 off the back of England’s World Cup exploits, there was a buzz of excitement around the Etihad beforehand.
Less than 1,500 had watched that Continental Cup tie against Everton five years ago, but this game had all the usual aspects you would expect from a local derby.
Within three minutes, City forward Janine Beckie was hassling United keeper Mary Earps and team-mate Georgia Stanway came close with a low strike from the edge of the area.
But it was visitors who caused the biggest problems in the first half as Demi Stokes struggled to handle Jess Sigsworth and Jane Ross on the right, while Leah Galton’s deliveries were a threat from the left.
They should have taken the lead through Scotland striker Ross but her side-foot volley was tipped expertly away by teenage keeper Ellie Roebuck, before Groenen was inches away from pulling off a backheel flick.
In the end, City’s quality came through and the home fans have the bragging rights from this opening weekend derby.
However, the record attendance may only stand for a day as a near-capacity crowd is anticipated at Chelsea’s 41,000-seater Stamford Bridge stadium, where the Blues host WSL newcomers Tottenham at 12:30 BST, in a game shown live on BBC television on Sunday.
Cushing happy to repay the fans – reaction
Manchester City manager Nick Cushing: “This team has had the opportunity to play in front of 31,000 in our home stadium. We are just really pleased that we have repaid them with the win.
“This season I really believe it will be the most competitive WSL season and that’s brilliant for the women’s game.
“Caroline Weir can be world-class offensively. She sees things that people don’t see. She needs to show that on matchdays. She has done that today.”
Manchester United manager Casey Stoney: “I’m really pleased with the players, we played some really good stuff and created some really good chances. They’re the fine margins at this level – if you don’t take your chances you always leave the opposition in the game.
“I’m proud of the players, they tried to execute the gameplan, we set out to come and have a go and we did that.
“I have to be extremely proud of these players and where they’ve come from in such a short space of time.”