Liverpool FC Women were beaten 2-0 by Manchester United at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday.

Both sides were looking to open their Women’s Super League account for the season but it was the hosts who took the points courtesy of second-half goals from Lauren James and a penalty from Katie Zelem.

It was a disappointing second period for the Reds, who had looked extremely threatening in the opening half.

That period was marked by the success of Liverpool’s wingers in getting balls into the box, with Rinsola Babajide, Melissa Lawley and Niamh Charles all causing problems out wide for the hosts.

Lawley was the first to show her intent, breaking down the right early on but her cross didn’t find a teammate in the box.

At the other end, James tried her luck for Casey Stoney’s United side on five minutes but Anke Preuss gathered easily in the Reds goal.

The Liverpool forward line won the ball high on several occasions and when Courtney Sweetman-Kirk dispossessed a defender on 15 minutes, she attempted an audacious chip but Mary Earps was back in time to save.

Preuss was called into action again on 25 minutes, turning away a powerful shot from Leah Galton, but the Reds hit back within five minutes.

A corner from the right was met by Niamh Fahey, whose goalbound header was cleared near the line by United captain Zelem.

The nearest the home team came to a goal in the half was a strong left-footed shot from James five minutes from the break which struck the crossbar and rebounded to safety.

United caused the first problems after the break, though, with a low ball from the left going right across the Reds’ box and eventually out for a goal-kick.

Next, Zelem’s free-kick was well turned around her post by Preuss and from the resulting corner, the Liverpool goalkeeper got down well to gather a low shot from Ella Toone.

The hosts continued to threaten and Preuss had to be quickly off her line to deny Galton after she was slipped through by the influential Zelem. Babajide broke away for Liverpool but couldn’t find an angle to play in the open Sweetman-Kirk.

The opening goal arrived from a defensive mistake as the Reds failed to clear their lines from near the corner flag on 70 minutes.

Jess Siggsworth picked the ball up and when it fell to James in the box she gave Preuss no chance with her finish.

Leighanne Robe tried her luck from distance while Sweetman-Kirk attempted an audacious overhead kick but it was United who almost stretched their lead – Galton and Toone both hit the crossbar within seconds of each other before a third effort went wide.

Substitutes Jess Clarke, Kirsty Linnett and Ashley Hodson all arrived for the Reds but they couldn’t find an equaliser.

Instead, three minutes into injury time the hosts found a second after Fahey tripped Galton in the box, Zelem converting the penalty.

Liverpool FC Women: Preuss, Jane (Hodson, 87), Robe, Bradley-Auckland, Fahey, Roberts, Rodgers (Linnett, 80), Lawley, Charles (Clarke, 71), Sweetman-Kirk, Babajide.

Unused substitutes: Kitching, Kearns, Purfield.