The Manchester Derby was the hot-ticket curtain-raiser for the FA Women’s Super League “Women’s Football Weekend”, and the first of five big games over two days in England’s top flight didn't disappoint.
Pre-match hype had centered on the four members of the United States’ 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup winning team that currently ply their trade in Manchester.
While three started the match (Tobin Heath and Christen Press for United, Sam Mewes for City), it was the homegrown talents that produced the key moments, with Chloe Kelly and Laura Coombs scoring to give City a 2-0 lead.
United pulled one back from Heath, who capitalised on a slack pass from Lucy Bronze. Scotland international Kirsty Hanson then scrambled an equaliser for the Red Devils, as it finished Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United.
Hanson, Kelly, and Coombs are all technically eligible to feature at next summer’s Tokyo 2020 Games for Great Britain, who qualified for the Olympics through England’s performance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France last year.
The squad will consist of players eligible from the four nations of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – with the 18-player squad being led by England coach Phil Neville.
The match in Manchester wasn't the only WSL clash to feature some of the biggest names in the world.
Alex Morgan in action for Spurs
Tottenham Hotspur handed a first start to recent high-profile signing Alex Morgan, in their 2-2 draw at Bristol City.
Team USA star Morgan was originally a doubt to feature at the Olympics in Tokyo following the birth of her daughter Charlie Elena Carrasco in May, but with the postponement of the Games until 2021 the London 2012 gold medalist and two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner is aiming to regain her form and fitness for the USWNT with Spurs in England.
For Morgan, it's all about getting to Tokyo 2020 in top form.
Sunday showdown to watch for Dutch, Danish, and Australian fans
The main event on Sunday sees defending champions Chelsea up against their London rivals Arsenal, and will offer plenty to dissect for fans of other nations who will be represented in Tokyo, especially the Netherlands and Australia.
Fans of the Netherlands, who qualified for next year’s Olympics by reaching the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final in France, are heavily represented in the Arsenal squad; Vivianne Miedema leads the line for the Gunners, in a team that also includes Jill Roord and Danielle Van de Donk.
Chelsea meanwhile can depend on Melanie Leupolz (Rio 2016 gold medalist with Germany) as well as the likes of Ji So-Yun, Jessie Fleming, and Jonna Anderson & Magdalena Eriksson, who could all feature at Tokyo 2020 with Republic of Korea, Canada, and Sweden respectively.
Look out too for Pernille Harder, the Danish sensation who joined Chelsea and partner Eriksson in London.
The match, on both sides, will also have a strong Australian presence, too. The Matildas, who qualified for Tokyo in February with victory over Vietnam, have Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Lydia Williams in the Arsenal squad, while Chelsea possess one of the best strikers in the world right now in Sam Kerr.
Women's Olympic football qualification
From the 12 spots available in the women’s football tournament at Tokyo 2020, two are still to be decided – Republic of Korea or PR China will join Australia from the Asian Football Confederation, while a CAF-CONMEBOL play-off between Cameroon and Chile will determine the final spot in Tokyo.
Qualified teams for women’s football at Tokyo 2020:
New Zealand (Oceania Football Confederation)
Great Britain, Netherlands and Sweden (UEFA)
Canada and United States (Concacaf)
Zambia (Confederation of African Football)
Australia (Asian Football Confederation)