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Man City Women salvage a point in the WSL

Parris and Houghton pull back goals for the Blues

Nick Cushing’s Man City Women side rescued a precious point against Tanya Oxtoby’s Bristol who held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw last week. Neither Man City or Bristol had conceded a goal in the league going into this game, but the home side looked to break that when they were awarded a corner within the first thirty seconds of the game.

As usual now, Caroline Weir sent the corner in, but Julie Biesmans managed to clear the ball before any damage could be done by Steph Houghton. The City captain would once again show her intent on getting the ball forward by playing it over the top throughout the game, Claire Emslie unable to connect this time; letting the ball run out for a Bristol throw in.

Nikita Parris, who was honoured for reaching 100 appearances before the match, struggled to get past former Blue Poppy Pattinson, much the same as Emslie in the Conti Cup game however Parris battled on and won a corner; the set piece cleared by Frankie Brown.

City tried to break when Weir played in Emslie who broke down the right only to be stopped by captain Loren Dykes.

Abbie McManus lost the ball to Juliette Kemppi who had her shot saved by Karen Bardsley, before the City keeper played it out from the back; the Blues awarded a throw in not long after. The ball was played forward to Parris, who was unlucky to lose possession to Brown following a brilliant tackle by the Scotland international.

The home side won the ball back and Tessa Wullaert’s shot from range went wide of Sophie Baggaley’s goal.

The visitors managed to break away, Danique Kerkdijk sending the ball long where Kemppi connected with it and Ella Rutherford’s shot was saved by Bardsley. The Vixens ramped up the pressure on City before Weir won the ball back, Keira Walsh sending the ball forward looking for Nadim but the whistle blew for offside on Parris.

Lucy Graham, hero of the hour in the Conti Cup against Aston Villa, dispossessed Houghton but the City captain made a great tackle only for referee Asaka Koizumi to pull it back for a Bristol free kick fifteen minutes in. With Graham and Biesmans providing a decoy, Rutherford stepped up to take and sent the ball into the box where Bardsley looked to have the saved the effort, only for it to slip through her fingers; Kerkdijk there to tap it home.

Now a goal down, it was crucial City pulled one back. Walsh collected the ball from Jen Beattie’s throw in and McManus laid the ball off to Wullaert, the Belgian under pressure from Bristol before Houghton lost possession to Kemppi; the Finnish international’s shot heading wide.

The Vixens were awarded another free kick and this time Biesmans took, a decoy provided again, the Belgian’s effort cleared before Wullaert broke away, playing in Parris who saw her effort cleared by Bristol’s number 20.

Walsh picked out Parris and sent a lovely ball to the forward, her effort stinging the palms of the Bristol keeper, Baggaley initially dropping the ball but the England U23 international held on.

Scottish international Weir sent in a wonderful cross, Parris getting her head to it but Baggaley was equal to it and saved the effort. City should have got the equaliser time and again but Sophie Baggaley was there to smother every shot, including Nadia Nadim’s header which came from a Nikita Parris cross; the forward having made a great run down the right.

Man City’s Nikita Parris is pursued by Bristol City’s Poppy Pattinson

Weir had a shot saved, Baggaley keeping hold of the ball under pressure from Nadim before Dykes put the ball out for a corner, Houghton’s header heading agonisingly wide.

City had one of their best chances to equalise when Tessa Wullaert made a brilliant run before playing through Nadim, nutmegging a Bristol player in the process; the ball running just a little too far for the Dane. Houghton stepped up take a free kick with roughly seven minutes plus stoppage time to go, the City captain’s effort wide of Baggaley’s goal but the home side were awarded a corner.

Frankie Brown cleared before Nikita Parris went up against Loren Dykes and the ball went out for another corner. It was taken short and Walsh had a beautifully curling shot from the edge of the box saved too.

Baggaley went down injured with five minutes to go but the keeper got to her feet after receiving some treatment. Parris then tested her again when she beat Pattinson and broke down the right wing, her ball in collected by the Vixens keeper. Keira Walsh, under pressure from Julie Biesmans, got the ball to McManus who sent in a wonderful ball to Wullaert, the Belgian’s low cross to Nadia Nadim saved again.

Wullaert’s shot from range and Jen Beattie’s header were both saved and the home side went in at half time 1-0 down.

City started the second half much the way they started the first as Parris sent in a cross for Nadim, the forward arriving late; her diving header saved. The following corner, won after Frankie Brown cleared Jill Scott’s shot, was cleared by Carla Humphrey but Wullaert won the ball back from Rutherford. Emslie and Houghton played a nice pattern of passing and Houghton sent the ball long, Brown clearing to Kerkdijk sent the ball forward looking for Rutherford; Walsh winning back possession.

The ball found it’s way back to Bardsley, who had come out of her area to play as sweeper, the City number 1 loosing possession to Juliette Kemppi who launched the ball goal-wards, Walsh running back in an attempt to clear it off the line but she couldn’t reach it in time and Bristol went 2-0 up.

The Blues had a chance to pull back a goal when they were awarded a free kick, Weir stepping up to take, the ball falling back to half time substitute Gemma Bonner, her and Nikita Parris combining to send the ball down the wing to Weir. The attacking midfielder the ball in, Jill Scott and Steph Houghton getting there heads to it only for the ball to be put out for a corner.

Cushing brought on Georgia Stanway and 16 Jess Park for Scott and Nadim, boosting the team’s attacking prowess and hoping the two England youth internationals could provide some goals; Stanway in particular.

Gemma Bonner switched play by sending a ball across to Stanway on the right, Georgia playing in Houghton whose cross into the box was cleared by Frankie Brown; City winning another corner. Emslie’s cross was cleared by Bristol’s Carla Humphrey, the ball falling to Stanway who played in Parris and in turn Houghton; her cut back finding Parris and Humphrey cleared.

City found it hard to get back into the game, their shots on goal, crosses and corners being cleared, blocked or saved by Bristol.

Bristol won back the ball through Loren Dykes and as they were on the breakaway, Stanway tackled Pattinson near the edge of the box and found herself in the referee’s book. The following free kick was taken by former Liverpool player Ali Johnson who sent her shot wide of Bardsley’s goal.

Nikita Parris broke down the right and it was Johnson who brought the forward down in the box, the referee awarding City a penalty and a way back into the game with eight minutes of normal time to play. Parris stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left of Sophie Baggaley’s net, the keeper unable to get a hand to it.

The race was now on for Cushing’s side to get an equaliser and possibly a winner and Bristol to hold onto their lead before the ninety minutes was up.

City applied more and more pressure but the defining moment came when Emslie went up against Humphrey, sending her shot across the box to be collected by Stanway. She sent it back to Houghton who stepped up and fired the shot into top left corner. This was met by a huge roar from the City fans, elated to see their captain score and it was certainly deserved after the tough week she had.

Steph Houghton is congratulated on her goal by her teammates
Man City via Getty Images

The four minutes of extra time couldn’t bring about any more goals, just Jen Beattie sending a header wide and Jess Park having her effort saved.

Speaking to after the game, manager Nick Cushing said: “I didn’t think we were good enough today. We weren’t ruthless or clinical enough in those moments that we had. We had Bristol on the back foot for the whole game and we never really punished them enough and you make basic errors in football and gift goals; you can’t expect to win football matches like that”.

“If you apply yourself right and you have the right focus and concentration then you’ll be the player that you are. We have good players in this team, but good players have to impose themselves every game to show that they are good players”.

“Although I thought we were ok today, we weren’t good enough and we can’t expect to win football matches if we can’t impose ourselves on the game”.

Speaking on Houghton’s performance and goal: “Steph is Steph, she is the England captain and the Manchester City captain because of her professionalism, her commitment, her desire and her hunger to win. We made a slight change in her position for the second half to get her a little bit higher and to make her a bit more offensive and she contributed to both goals”.

Man City Women take on Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Round of 32 tie in the UEFA Women’s Champions League at the Academy Stadium on Wednesday night; kick off is 7pm.

Tickets for this game have also been sent via email to print at home.

Man City Women:

Karen Bardsley, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Jill Scott (Jess Park 54’), Nadia Nadim (Georgia Stanway 54’), Nikita Parris, Caroline Weir, Claire Emslie, Abbie McManus (Gemma Bonner 46’), Keira Walsh and Tessa Wullaert

Subs (not used): Ellie Roebuck, Mie Jans, Mel Lawley and Esme Morgan

Bookings: Stanway 77’

Bristol City Women:

Sophie Baggaley, Loren Dykes ©, Gemma Evans (Ali Johnson 71’), Frankie Brown, Danique Kerkdijk, Poppy Pattinson (Jess Woolley 90’), Carla Humphrey, Juliette Kemppi, Ella Rutherford (Heather Payne 68’), Lucy Graham and Julie Biesmans

Subs (not used): Eartha Cummings, Katie Rood, Rosella Ayane and Poppy Wilson

Goal scorers: Kerkdijk 15’, Kemppi 49’, Parris (pen) 82’ and Houghton 89’

MCWFC OSC POTM: Steph Houghton

Referee: Asaka Koizumi