Manchester City 4 – 1 Doncaster Rovers Belles
Manchester City Women booked their place in the Semi Finals of the FA Continental Cup on Sunday afternoon, with a laboured 4-1 win over Doncaster Rovers Belles and saw the scoreline slightly flattering the City side in truth. Goals from Izzy Christiansen, Georgia Stanway, Toni Duggan and Jane Ross were enough to help the Blues through to their third successive Semi Final in the competition in three seasons and now await to see who they will face in the next round.
A crowd of 1,153 watched on as the fixture saw City’s third fixture in seven days, which forced Blue boss Nick Cushing into changes with Jane Ross, Jill Scott and Georgia Stanway on the bench and handed Marie Hourihan a start in goals. The home side played a very slow almost methodical approach to their game you could say, but they looked to try and replicate their performance of earlier on in the season when the Blues dominated the Belles side 6-0 back in May.
With ten minutes gone in the contest it saw that this match wouldn’t be as one-sided as the previous encounter between the two teams previously and despite City having the lionshare of the ball, it saw the home side facing a much more organised Doncaster side and had them making it difficult for the league leaders in the WSL. Not too much was happening in the way of chances for either side, and was very much a scrappy game for large parts too.
Nikita Parris had the first effort for the home side as a poor back pass saw the forward pounce upon the ball, but her shot was off target and went down as a wasteful effort. Doncaster who failed to register a shot in the last match at the Academy Stadium, it saw them having a pop through Christie Murray as her long range effort sailed over the bar, but it did show that this was far from the side they faced earlier in the year. City then had the ball in the back of the net after 17 minutes gone as some good link up play between Daphne Corboz, Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris saw Parris playing a ball across for Izzy Christiansen to tap home from the five yards out, but sadly for the home side she was flagged offside.
Christiansen then tried her luck minutes later once again with an attempted lob from outside the area, but the City Midfielder saw her not getting enough lift or power on the ball and so saw easily collected by Nichola Hobbs in the Doncaster goal. Toni Duggan then went close for the home side with a good low drive that needed a fingertip save from Hobbs in the Doncaster goals to tip it round the post for a corner and you sensed a goal was coming. With the home side threatening in periods, it finally brought a goal for them after Demi Stokes made a strong run into the penalty area and put in a cross for Izzy Christiansen to send a looping header on goal and beat the keeper for a 1-0 lead after 38 minutes.
The last action of the half saw a chance by Toni Duggan spurned by the home side, as some quick touches by Lucy Bronze and goalscorer Izzy Christiansen saw the midfielder laying off a quick pass to the England Striker and her curving attempt went high and wide of the far post.
Second half saw a fairly quiet affair and saw the home side unable to capitalise on their ball retention and also wasn’t pressuring their opponents much in the game. City boss Nick Cushing then brought on hat-trick hero from last weekend in Georgia Stanway, with Nikita Parris making way for the England-U17 starlet. Doncaster began to get into the game a bit more without actually creating anything of note, but thoughts may have slowly been planted into the minds of a few fans, that with City unable to increase their lead that the Belles could snatch a goal from somewhere and cost City for not making the most of their possession. City’s top scorer Jane Ross then came on to the field to replace Izzy Christiansen with half an hour of the game left to play and with her and Stanway playing, they looked more threatening.
Georgia Stanway then finally gave the home side some breathing space to put City 2-0 up, after she came out on top in a 50-50 challenge and then launched a strike from outside the area and saw it bounce just in front of Hobbs to find the far corner for a stunning goal in the 75th minute and that looked to have sealed it. The home side though then made the mistake by taking their foot off the gas momentarily, which saw some very good passing by the Doncaster Belles side and saw a ball played over the back line towards the galloping Kasia Lipka who was onside, and her low shot across goal was brilliantly saved by Marie Hourihan in the City goals as the keeper got a good hand to turn the ball away for a corner and was ‘Donny’s’ first real chance of the game.
The visitors then cut the deficit in half from a corner kick that wasn’t dealt all by the City defence, and that allowed Doncaster Rover Belles Marta Matthews to smash home from close range and see the travelling South Yorkshire side back in the cup tie with ten minutes left to play. That goal really lit a fire under the backsides of the City side and saw them finally playing their normal brand of attacking football and saw Toni Duggan making it two goals in games for the Liverpudlian striker, as an attempted through ball by Jane Ross was blocked but saw the rebound coming out to Tessa Middag and the Dutch International played a short pass forward to the Blues striker, who then slotted it through the legs of the keeper for a 3-1 score and had the hosts now turning the screw.
City then began to smell blood and saw Georgia Stanway going close with a curling effort from outside the area that needed the keeper to make a vital save to push it over. With two minutes left in normal time, it saw City’s top scorer in Jane Ross making sure of their place in the semi-finals with a goal that had a touch of fortunate about it for the Scottish striker, as a ball into the area was headed across the area from Georgia Stanway and the ball somehow bounced through the legs of Leandra Little and Ross was on hand to tuck the ball home for 4-1 and finally end the challenge of a stubborn Doncaster side.
It means the Blues are now just one win away from playing in another Continental Cup Final and should they reach it, they will have home field advantage for the final, as the final is being at their home ground the City Academy Stadium. Monday will see the draw taking place and will have City facing one of Birmingham City Ladies, London Bees who knocked out Chelsea Ladies in the previous round, or the toughest tie in Arsenal Ladies in who they beat to win the trophy a couple of seasons ago.