ANALYSIS: Sunderland AFC ladies 0-2 Man City Women

Manchester City Women put on a commanding performance at Sunderland and returned home with all three points after a comfortable 2-0 win.

The deserved victory sees the Blues extend their league record to 4 wins in 4 games, sending them back to the top of the WSL 1, once again leaving the onus on second-placed Chelsea to match City’s results.

The side remained unchanged from the one that started against Birmingham in the league on Sunday, with Toni Duggan taking up a place on the bench after returning from injury.

From the off, City looked threatening. Jill Scott sent Nikita Parris on a run down the right wing with a fine ball from the outside of her boot. Parris easily beat her full-back, taking the ball into the box at pace. Her searching cross could only be smothered by Sunderland ‘keeper Rachael Laws after it failed to find the lingering Jane Ross.

Sunderland responded immediately, with Roche’s cross into the 6-yard area sailing through the City defence after Bardsley failed to claim the ball.

The game was scrappy in the opening few minutes with the Blues uncharacteristically being unable to impose their style of possession play on Sunderland. Despite a tentative opening period, City never really look troubled by Sunderland and eventually became increasingly comfortable on the ball – a far cry from the sloppy play seen throughout their previous game against Birmingham. With their new-found rhythm, City started to look like the better side, with Sunderland failing to really challenge City, despite putting good pressure on the ball.

An intelligent one-two down City’s right flank between ex-Sunderland players Steph Houghton and Jill Scott saw Scott’s low cross fall to Parris’ feet in the box, but she could only fire the half-chance over after being quickly closed down by Abby Holmes.

Continued pressure saw the Blues carve open Sunderland’s defence 20 minutes in, with Jill Scott once again beginning the move. Scott’s great play in the middle of the park saw her easily turn past Stephanie Roche with some lovely close control. Driving forwards towards goal, Scott’s through-ball arrived at Ross’ feet, but the Scottish international’s inviting ball across the 6-yard line was sent back out towards the line, a fraction of a second before the incoming Nikita Parris could latch on to it at the back post. Demi Stokes eventually regained control of the ball for the Blues and sent in a pinpoint cross to Kosovare Asllani, who’s header was well saved by the reaching Rachael Laws.

Sunderland threatened after Roche’s pass ricocheted off Jennifer Beattie’s foot back into the path of Roche, whose first time effort from 25-yards forced Karen Bardsley to run back towards her goal line. City’s ‘keeper was relatively untroubled by the effort, however, seeing the ball dip over the bar.

City had a hat-trick of chances thwarted by Sunderland’s ‘keeper in the following ten minutes, but Nikita Parris finally broke the deadlock for the Blues after her composed finish completed a well-crafted City move close to half-time. Jill Scott once again started the move for City, winning the ball 25-yards out from goal. Her driving run took her towards the edge of the box where she played a clever square ball to Daphne Corboz. The USA U23 international found herself in acres of space on the edge of the area, and was in a prime position to take a first-time shot on goal, but the playmaker, being closed down quickly by the Sunderland defence, played a wonderful ball out wide to the free Nikita Parris. Showing excellent composure, Parris steadied herself, picked her spot and brilliantly finished the chance, putting the ball beyond Sunderland’s three closing defenders and goalkeeper to score her first league goal of the season and City’s first of the evening.

HT: Sunderland 0 – 1 Manchester City Women

City continued with the dominating performance they’d displayed in the first half, seemingly not wanting to give up possession of the ball at any point – when they did, they’d show endeavour and commitment to win it straight back.

It was all City in the second half as Cushing’s well-drilled side nullified Sunderland’s attack, restricting the Lady Black Cats to few chances in the second half. Sunderland’s only real sniff at a half-chance came after City took their time to clear a loose ball in the box early on in the half, but Jennifer Beattie brought the ball under control and cleared it out of the danger zone.

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City’s first sight of goal in the second half came following a beautiful pitch-length ball from Demi Stokes that switched the play to Kosovare Asllani on the right. Asllani ran with purpose towards goal but sent a poor effort well wide after excellent pressure from full-back Victoria Williams.

Despite being in control, City failed to create as many chances as they did in the first half, having to wait until the 75th minute for their first clear-cut chance to emerge. In space, Demi Stokes collected the poor clearance of Georgia Stanway’s volleyed effort on the edge of Sunderland’s area. With the crowd urging her to shoot, Stokes instead drew out several of Sunderland’s defenders, freeing up the freshly-introduced Duggan on the left of the penalty area, then placed a neat lay-off into her path. Duggan, as calm in front of goal as ever, slotted the ball past an outstretched Laws with her first touch of the game, sealing the win for City in the process.

FT: Sunderland 0 – 2 Manchester City Women

It was a commanding performance from the Blues who, apart from a 15 minute period at the start in which they struggled to get a rhythm to their play going, took control of the game. The result was never really in doubt, with City looking like real title contenders after putting on a well-organised, possession-based display in which they were rarely troubled.

Jennifer Beattie looked to have returned to the imperious form that saw her end last season as one of City’s best players, winning the ball in the middle at almost every opportunity and, being such a calm passer of the ball, linked attack and defence well throughout the game. Jill Scott was also excellent and, alongside Nikita Parris, spearheaded City’s attack from start to finish. With Meg Campbell’s return from injury looming and Toni Duggan grabbing a goal with her first touch, things are looking bright for the Blues.

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WOTM: Nikita Parris. Energetic and direct up the wings, not even choking on her chewing gum could stop the pint-sized forward from terrorising Sunderland’s defence. Looked to continue her flourishing partnership with striker Jane Ross, with only excellent defending getting in the way of her increasing her assists tally for the season. Scored five minutes before half-time to provide City with the crucial first goal, and ultimately the winner.

TEAMS

City

XI: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Beattie, Corboz (Stanway ’62), Scott, Asllani (Duggan ’74), Parris, Ross.

Unused: Hourihan, Tynan, Paul, Kemp.

Sunderland

XI: Laws, Holmes, Bannon (C), Sharp (Potts ’67), Williams (Beer ’66), Staniforth, Furness, Chaplen, Ramshaw (Joice ’46), Mead, Roche.

Unused: McDougall, Brown, Hill, Kelly.

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Written by Jill Peacock

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