City defeated local rivals Liverpool Ladies 2-0 in the 5th round of the FA Cup to reach the quarterfinals.
With long term injuries to Keira Walsh and new recruit Meg Campbell announced just before the game, City started with a couple of players usually seen on the subs bench. Abbie McManus came in at central defence and Daphne Corboz in unfamiliar territory at defensive midfield.
Liverpool were a bit of an unknown quantity going into the game having rebuilt the team over the summer, albeit with some quality additions, with manager Scott Rogers starting seven debutants.
City started brightly, passing the ball around well in the opening few minutes with Corboz looking assured early on with a few great tackles - surely something no supporter of MCWFC ever thought the usually rightsided midfielder had in her locker.
Six minutes in, City fans’ hearts sank as Izzy Christiansen went over on her ankle. The artificial pitch at the Select Security Stadium is well known for being pretty awful, clearly for good reason. Christiansen collapsed in a heap of pain seconds after returning to the pitch following treatment and had to be subbed off for 17 year old Georgia Stanway, and looked devastated to have to go off injured.
Liverpool could have been awarded an early penalty a few minutes later after McManus looked to have committed a foul in the box, but the ref was having none of it and waved play on.
City pressed the ball and passed well, setting up a few chances. Jane Ross denied by a desperate van den Berg boot and a great save from Chamberlain, with Duggan firing just wide after some good holdup play from Ross in the box.
Scoring on the same ground for the second season running, substitute Stanway put the Blues 10 up with a peach of a goal from 30 yards out half an hour in, silencing the home crowd. Sublimely curled into the top corner, Liverpool’s goalkeeper had no chance and rightfully sank to the floor after watching the effort fly in. Stanway’s going to get a well deserved reputation for stunning goals if she carries on.
Bronze, Scott and Asllani linked up well down the right throughout. Koso had a decent game and had the chance to net her first competitive goal for her new club off a lovely weighted ball over the top from Duggan. Would have been a goal if it wasn’t for Siobhan Chamberlain’s knee. Should have scored.
Liverpool had a good spell early on in the second half, stringing a few passes together and making City work a bit harder for the ball. Corboz had to be excellent in the middle to not get overrun by the much more athletic Liverpool midfield that surrounded her, and she was the American showing in the second half more of what she did in the first calmness, composure and welltimed tackling.
Liverpool’s improved play nearly paid off after 60 minutes with debutant Emma Lundh rattling Karen Bardsley’s near post, although she looked like she knew where it was going the entire time. Everyone knows KB likes to live on the edge (not sure if of danger or reason. Probably both.)
City sealed the win on 64 minutes after substitute Nikita Parris nodded in Duggan’s whipped in corner. Hopefully this sparks a good run for Parris, who struggled for form at some points during last season.
City were not at their very best today, which was understandable given the pitch conditions and it being the first game of the season, but they were good enough to see off a Liverpool side that improved in the second half. Liverpool hit the woodwork and could have had a penalty, but City never really felt troubled and were comfortable winners in the end.
The injury to Christiansen is worrying. It’s a huge blow for the Blues. After being spotted taking part in the team talk on the pitch after the game on crutches and wearing a moon boot, it doesn’t look good.
With City’s other injury worries and thin squad, it puts pressure on Cushing to perhaps play Jen Beattie too soon after a long season over at sister club Melbourne City FC Women, having won the league and championship. Missing City’s preseason games and Scotland’s friendly against Spain this month it was feared by some that she’d picked up a knock. City can’t afford many more serious injuries, especially to key players like Jen and Izzy – the squad simply doesn’t have the depth to cope well.
On a good note however, City are through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, with the aim being to go all the way to Wembley on the 14th May and win the competition. With one of the tougher opponents in Liverpool out of the way already, things are looking bright for City’s campaign.
WOTM: Toni Duggan. Worked tirelessly all evening. One of our best defensive players, as usual. Excellent going forward, too, with two assists to her name and a couple of well-worked chances hit wide. A great display.
XI: Chamberlain, Harris, van den Berg, Bonner (C), Greenwood, Ingle, Coombs (Longhurst 75’), Zelem, Harding, White (Lundh 46’), Weir (van de Sanden 60’). SUBS: Gibbons, Longhurst, Hodson, van de Sanden, Lundh
XI: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Corboz, Scott, Christiansen (Stanway 11’), Asllani (Parris 60’), Duggan, Ross. SUBS: Hourihan, Beattie, Parris, Stanway, Tynan.
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Written by Jill Peacock