Manchester City Women 1 – 0 Brondby IF
An absolute ‘bolt from the blue’ by midfielder Keira Walsh handed Manchester City Women a 1-0 win over Brondby IF in their first leg of the Uefa Women’s Champions League Round of 16 tie this past Wednesday night, as a 35-yard stunner by the Blues midfielder proved to be the difference in the game. Nick Cushing will see his team taking over a one goal advantage to Copenhagen next Thursday night, as City will look to hopefully finish the job off in Denmark in the second leg.
The game was one of patience by for the home side, with the Danes making things very difficult for City to play their normal style of football and proved to be a very tough nut to crack. After disposing of Russian side Prem Zvezda 05 in the previous round, this was seen as a far tougher assignment to date for the English Champions and so it proved to be. City had a lot of possession in the opening ten minutes of the game, but Brondby too had their moments and showed a few glimpses now and then of what they could do set early warnings off for this tie that they hadn’t come just to defend.
Those warning signs were soon to be alarm bells for the home side, that was until a timely tackle by captain Steph Houghton saw her denying an early chance for the visiting side. Lucy Bronze had the opening chance for the hosts in the 24th minute of play, when Kosavare Asllani played a little ball ahead for the fast running Bronze to run on to and the defender saw her shot at the near post beating blocked by the foot of Katrine in the opponents net.
Brondby then carved out their first chance of the game, when an attempted cross was blocked near the by line by a City player and saw the height of the ball being too high for Kiera Walsh to get any real clearance on from it, so the ball came to Christiansen who aimed for the far corner and looked to be creeping in but for the England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley getting down brilliantly to push it away from goal.
City were the dominant side in the half and just weren’t able to unlock the Brondby defence to find a goal, but they was finding minor chinks in the Danish sides armour. Blues fans were getting frustrated with little pulls and clear holding on the home sides players that seemed clear as day, but they didn’t seemed to garner any interest at all from the match officials from Romania.
As half time came on a freezing night in Manchester, it saw the teams going into the break deadlocked at 0-0 and if any team looked like they would score first then it would be the home side. In truth Brondby are a very different animal to say the likes of Doncaster, Reading and Sunderland in the WSL with all due respect to them. But the Danes have a European pedigree in this tournament and have reached the semi finals of this competition on a fair few occasions.
It was back in the 2010-11 season that saw the visitors last playing an English team in this competition and had Brondby losing out to Everton Ladies at the same stage 5-2 over two legs, in which City trio Jill Scott, Toni Duggan and Lucy Bronze all played in that tie for Everton.
Play was still being controlled by the home side and they were now starting to pick holes in the visitors defence, after they had been so greatly difficult to break down from their superb organised set up and now had the home side starting to find some joy.
Jane Ross really should have put the Blues up with a fantastic chance on 57 minutes, but the Scottish striker spurned the game best chance. It all came from play in the middle of the park as a Keira Walsh through ball run nicely for Ross to run onto and after she pushed it past the keeper for a certain goal, the striker seemed to hesitate slightly and tried to use the outside of her foot and by doing so allowed the away side to get back an deny her the hosts a goal.
That seemed to be the chance that City had craved for in a tight contest and they let it go begging in the Round of 16 tie. City manager Nick Cushing then made his first change of the game as he brought on Nikita Parris for Kosse Asllani and that just gave the side an extra boost that they were missing.
With the home side still trying to find a way past their opponents, it saw an unlikely source producing a bit of magic that came from absolutely nothing. It saw the goal coming from a quick free kick by Jennifer Beattie as she and Izzy Christiansen played a little one-two between each other and that then saw Walsh receiving the ball between the halfway line and the Brondby area, but the 19-year old then fired off a stunning 35-yard effort that flew by the keeper and put the hosts 1-0 up with 15 minutes left in the contest.
Toni Duggan then made way for England under-17 star Georgia Stanway, and as the home side now faced started to come under fire more from their opponents it had Brondby creating a couple of efforts. Firstly Karen Bardsley was called upon to make a great save off Sorensen, when a corner was cleared so far until a pass was driven towards the opposing player and she saw her effort being well stopped by the out coming England number one.
The contest saw some very poor officiating mainly from the referee’s assistant on the Brondby left, as the Romanian lines-woman was getting some clear cut calls horribly wrong and most of them seemed to involve Nikita Parris at the forefront of them.
Collective hearts were in the mouths of all City fans just before the clock struck 90 minutes, when some late pressure led to the Danish champions having an effort that saw Karen Bardsley scrambling backwards to tip a shot onto the bar and way, after an cross come shot by Veje saw her effort coming off the crossbar late on.
The full time whistle came for the home side and was one of relief at the end, as they just did enough to win on the night and that after being on top for a large majority of the contest. Brondby though let their opponents know in this tie that they will need to up their game next week in Denmark if the Blues wish to progress further on in this competition.
Match winner Kiera Walsh spoke to Man City live presenter Kelly O’Donnell after the game and said of the encounter, “It was a tough game tonight, they was tough opposition but we goal in the end in the second half and we never stopped pushing.
“We played our game in the second half and the result went out way. I mean in the first half they took the game to us and we rarely got out of our half in the first. But in the second half, we calmed down and played out game and got out of first gear and the game was all out after that. But they just kept really pushing us and were really tough to break down.”
When asked on her wonder goal, the midfielder couldn’t stop smiling when asked about it and told City, “Especially when I support City, you know to score in the Champions League you can’t really beat it.”
” My team mates keep taking the mick out of me and saying its coming every game, but it is a dream come true.”