Manchester City Women 1 – 3 Olympique Lyonnais
Manchester City were given a European footballing lesson by their opponents and current holders Lyon, as the French club out-played, out-classed and out-worked their English counter-parts 3-1 in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League Semi-Final.
Goals by Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Eugenie Le Sommer helped the three-time champions of this tournament with a healthy lead to take back across the Channel, and also see Alex Morgan getting the better of her fellow US teammate Carli Lloyd, in the battle of the American superstars.
A big crowd of 3,548 witness Manchester City Women making history, with the Manchester side hosting their first ever Women’s Champions League semi final against Olympique Lyon on a glorious Saturday afternoon, but saw their side struggle against their opponents.
The home side found themselves on the back foot also immediately from kick off, when a clearance by Abbie McManus was needed to avoid the Blues from going behind inside a minute. However from that resulting play, Lyon was then awarded a penalty for a handball of City’s Carli Lloyd, as the ball struck the American’s arm in the penalty box and gave the visitors a chance of an early lead.
Saki Kumagai then stepped up for the visitors to take the penalty and send Karen Bardsley the wrong way from the spot, and draw first blood to the French side after just two minutes into the game.
With Lyon looking like they could run riot early on with a wave of attack after attack on the home sides goal, it saw the Blues then finding an equaliser with their first attack in the game through Swedish forward Kosavare Asllani. After a delightful weighted through ball by Toni Duggan put in Asllani to run through on goal and find the back of the net on nine minutes, to net her first Champions League goal with City.
The first half felt like the pitch was on the proverbial slope with Lyon, as the visitors laid siege to the City goal, with the French side controlling play with their accurate passing and attacking threat. With all the play in the City half and the home side being pinned in their own half, it was only a matter of time before the visitors made another breakthrough.
That breakthrough then came in the form of a Dzsenfier Marozsen effort on sixteen minutes, when the German national captain bent her shot past the keeper for a 2-1 lead and was certainly deserved.
City knew coming into this semi final clash that it was a tall order to beat Lyon, especially when the French side are the current holders and have also played in five of the seven previous Women’s Champions League finals to date. So to say that Lyon were a level above anyone else that the Blues had faced so far in the tournament, would be a massive understatement.
As the teams headed into the half time break with the French side holding a 2-1 lead, it will have had both managers fairly happy with their sides respective first half displays. The away side could easily have been out of sight in the opening 45 minutes of play, but credit to City, as they put in a battling defensive display to halt a very dangerous outfit.
Lyon pressed for more goals in the second half, and the visitors own American superstar in Alex Morgan then found herself having a chance to increase the lead, but was she was denied brilliantly by Karen Bardsley.
As the game hit the midway point of the second half, it saw the visitors adding a third goal to the scoresheet, as Eugenie Le Sommer scored a very taken goal to put the visitors 3-1 up and possibly end the hopes early of the English Champions in the tie.
Both sides were putting in some meaty tackles on another, but pretty much all of the challenges were hard and fair, but some did stray on the side of fouls and bookable offences.
The hosts were unable to combat the very physical and quick play that the away side was showing in the contest, which is one reason why the home side was being picked apart in the engine room by the current holders, as Lyon shown their class and what it takes to win at this level.
City boss Nick Cushing then brought on Izzy Christiansen and Georgia Stanway inside the final ten minutes of play, and that saw the home side enjoying without doubt their best spell in the game.
Abby McManus almost pulled a goal back for the home side, when the defender got the slightest of touches on a cross at the near post and had the Lyon keeper scrambling to push it onto the post, before being cleared away.
With the home side playing some good football late in the day, it just came at the wrong time and had the Blues unable to break down the strong French side. As the full time whistle blew, it sees the Blues with a huge mountain to climb in France next weekend, but they are by no means out of the tie yet.