Nick Cushing’s side secured a 4-0 win over FA Women’s Championship newcomers Leicester City Women in their first competitive home game of the season. Belgian international Tessa Wullaert and youngster Jess Park particularly impressed, Park on her first City start and substitute Janine Beckie also made an appearance.
The result now sees the side sit at the top of their Continental Cup group on five points, with both Birmingham and Bristol City sitting on four after securing wins over Aston Villa and Sheffield United respectively; Villa and Leicester hold up the table.
City were awarded a corner within the first three minutes of the game, after Claire Emslie found herself up against former City development player Serena Fletcher, the Leicester defender putting the ball out. Fellow Scot Caroline Weir stepped up to take the corner and captain for the day Jen Beattie, connected with the ball but her header was off target and also missed by Gemma Bonner.
Forward Nadia Nadim also had a chance a minute later, but her effort from Emslie’s cross fired straight at new Leicester keeper Demi Lambourne.
Nadim and Emslie would link up once again as the Scot’s corner kick connected with Nadim, who timed a late run into the box; the Danes diving header cleared off the line by Charlotte Greengrass. The City number 10 was obviously keen to showcase her talent so as to possibly secure a move away from Manchester, after handing in a transfer request after just seven months at the club; a move that could possibly see the forward heading to France.
Leicester had a spell of possession when former Sheffield FC Ladies forward Melissa Johnson dispossessed Beattie before earning a throw in, former Birmingham player Freda Ayisi holding off Weir well only to have her cut out wonderfully by Wullaert. The Belgian made a great run forward, Mie Jans playing a lovely passing pattern with Mel Lawley who sprinted to the touchline before cutting the ball back in to Nadim; Jess Park hitting her shot wide.
Lawley sent in a cross once more, the shot being cleared by Leicester captain Holly Morgan but it still found Emslie in space before Fletcher sent the ball out for a corner; Weir sent the ball in again and it fell to Mie Jans whose shot on goal struck Ayisi.
Youngster Park found herself caught in the action when the referee awarded City a free kick after the England U17 international was clipped on the edge of the box. Caroline Weir stepped up and her shot went high, but the attacking midfielder redeemed herself when she brought down Lambourne’s goal kick beautifully.
Struggling to beat Fletcher down the left, Emslie and Lawley swapped wings and Mel had some success when she sent in a great cross that possibly would have beaten Lambourne, but Wullaert connected and her header went over.
Wanting to go in at half time ahead, City started pressing more and more with Mel’s cross looking for Nadia; which the Dane missed. Jess Park arrived late in the box and sent her effort beautifully curling towards goal before seeing it agonisingly head the wrong side of the post.
The home side came back out wanting to start the second half the same as they ended the first, with Lawley nearly running in behind the Leicester defence.
Emslie tried a shot on goal which was blocked by new signing Maddy Cusack before Melissa Johnson beat Jen, with Ayisi’s cross evading everyone. Jess Park found herself up against former Sheffield FC midfielder Sherry McCue, tackling the player brilliantly before Weir stepped up to take a free kick; Nadim’s diving header going over.
Freda Ayisi won the ball off Weir before the Scot won it back, Ayisi pushing Wullaert and awarding City a free kick which Weir once again sent in but Nadim was deemed to have pushed Morgan. Wullaert was keen to get her first City goal when Mie sent in a great ball for Lawley, the Belgian running late to connect with the cross but she sent her effort over the bar.
Moments later, Wullaert scored her first goal for City when Mel’s cross and Jess Park’s glancing header fell for the midfielder and she fired the ball into the top of the net.
Leicester then ramped up the pressure as Johnson was played through, taking a shot which Karen Bardsley saved, the away side winning a corner taken by McCue but they couldn’t find the equaliser. City then had a break way with Mie blocking Ayisi and winning the ball back, Nadia playing Claire Emslie a great ball before running through for the cross, her header down coming to nothing and Mel being blocked by Hayley James.
Johnson then found herself in behind again and Bardsley was called into action to make a comfortable save.
City looked to be wanting a second goal and both Emslie and Wullaert’s efforts came to nothing, before new signing Janine Beckie made her debut coming on for Beattie who handed the captain’s armband to Bardsley; Beckie making her first appearance in City colours after landing in Manchester two days earlier.
With Beattie gone, City resorted to a back three however that gave Melissa Johnson much more space to run in behind. Gemma Bonner stepped in and intercepted Freda Ayisi, making a great tackle; Weir also making a brilliant challenge on the forward seconds later.
Beckie nearly bagged herself a debut goal when Jans drove the ball forward, with Janine making a run ahead of her, Emslie playing her through and the Canadian tapped wide. The forward scored her debut goal after Emslie crossed the ball and Nadim flicked it on for the former Sky Blue player who sent it into the back of the net.
Park was looking for a goal all the time and nearly went for the spectacular when Tessa sent the ball through to Beckie and the forward with dual Canadian-American citizenship crossed the ball towards the youngster.
Wullaert would get her second she tapped the ball in from Nadim and with Leicester getting tired, Nadia would send in a shot from the edge of the box, the ball sneaking past Lambourne and rounding off the day’s action.
Speaking to mancity.com after the game, Nick Cushing said “Ultimately, we won a game 4-0 without the likes of Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Nikita Parris, Pauline Bremer, Demi Stokes, Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway – that shows the strength in depth we’ve got and the competition for places”.
“We’re really pleased with the squad we’ve got. There’s a good balance and competition for places. We have to keep putting the work in. I don’t think we’re fully into out rhythm but that’s natural at the start of the season”.
“Having the international break before it (the Chelsea game) doesn’t help because we don’t have time to keep playing games and keep training”.
“Our young English players (who have been away at the Under 20’s World Cup) also need time to rest and we’ll give them a period to go away and have time with family and friends. Their achievement was incredible and we really support that”.
Speaking on Wullaert and Beckie: “I thought Tessa was excellent. We knew she was going to be a threat from midfield and we wanted to evolve the team by having more of a goal threat from our offensive midfielders. They work incredibly hard to create chances for us but we know she can score goals. For her to have scored two and played so well is really pleasing for a new player”.
“Janine has been here for two days and for her to have come on and had an impact on the game is also pleasing”.
Club football now halts for an international break that sees plenty of City players on international duty, most notably Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton, Mel Lawley, Jill Scott, Nikita Parris, Abbie McManus and Keira Walsh involved in England’s crucial WWC qualifying game against top of the table Wales in Newport on Friday.
Kick-off is 19:45 and coverage starts on BBC Two and BBC Two Wales from 19:30.
Scots Jen Beattie, Caroline Weir and Claire Emslie will also be in action on Thursday night when Scotland face Switzerland at the Simple Digital Arena, Paisley with kick-off at 19:35.
Coverage starts on BBC Alba and the BBC Sport website at the same time.
Man City Women:
Karen Bardsley, Mie Jans, Gemma Bonner, Jen Beattie © (Janine Beckie 60’), Mel Lawley, Nadia Nadim, Jess Park, Caroline Weir, Claire Emslie, Abbie McManus and Tessa Wullaert.
Subs (not used): Fran Stenson, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Nikita Parris, Keira Walsh and Katie Bradley.
Bookings: Lawley 66’
Leicester City Women:
Demi Lambourne, Holly Morgan ©, Charlotte Greengrass, Taome Oliver (Rosie Axten 69’), Melissa Johnson (Sophie Domingo 66’), Freda Ayisi (Fiona Worts 74’), Hayley James, Leigh Dugmore, Sherry McCue, Serena Fletcher and Maddy Cusack.
Subs (not used): Charlotte Clarke, Nicola Nymden, Natalie Johnston and Mai Moncaster.
City POTM: Tessa Wullaert
Referee: James Bell