Nick Cushing’s side almost certainly secured UWCL football next season following their 2-1 win over Liverpool FC Women, with goals coming from Claire Emslie and a last minute header from Jen Beattie.
The game stopped almost as soon as it had started as Rinsola Babajide tackled forward Nikita Parris, the twenty five year old going down injured and receiving treatment, thankfully returning to the pitch unharmed with play resuming a few minutes later. A long ball forward from Steph Houghton saw Nikita make the run down the wing to collect, however defender Leigh-Anne Robe was there to cover and see the ball safely back to Anke Preuss.
Playing it around at the back, Beattie got the ball out wide to teammate Caroline Weir with the attacking midfielder finding Keira Walsh, the midfielder missing out to Laura Coombs as the Liverpool number 8 made a run goal wards before getting a shot off; Ellie Roebuck collecting.
A free kick awarded to the home side following a foul on Lauren Hemp, saw Caroline step up and send the ball into the area only for Niamh Fahey to head it away and Courtney Sweetman-Kirk to play the long ball down the left wing for Babajide. Houghton got back to cover the forward’s run, putting enough pressure on the Lionesses youth international to make her put the ball out for a City throw in. Coombs dispossessed Claire and made a run before finding Babajide, who originally lost out to Jen but managed to get the ball back, playing in Coombs again. Scottish international Christie Murray found Sweetman-Kirk on the wing and the forward sent a shot towards goal, Abbie McManus blocking the effort and the Blues clearing any more danger.
Having made the overlapping run, Walsh sent a cross in that was met by Emslie and Jemma Purfield and picked up by Abbie, however the defender lost out to Sweetman-Kirk before Babajide put the ball out.
Steph’s throw in found Jen and the defender switched play by sending a lovely ball for Weir, the midfielder bringing it down with ease before being played in by Keira seconds later, her own pass playing through Lauren but the ball was cleared by Yana Daniels and Sophie Bradley-Auckland. A throw in from Stokes was collected by Hemp, Robe holding the forward back and awarding the home side a free kick, Caroline’s ball in missed by everyone before McManus picked it up and sent an effort over the bar.
Around the twenty minute mark, the Blues were awarded a corner with Weir’s cross meeting the heads of Jill Scott and Jen but the ball went behind for a goal kick.
City went ahead half an hour or so into the match, Demi’s cross into the area first cleared by Fahey and picked up by Jill, the midfielder finding Claire on the right with the forward making a run to the edge of the box before sending a low shot in the bottom left corner to put the home side 1-0 up.
A few minutes later Lauren forced a save from Anke Preuss, the forward connecting with McManus’s cross, her low shot making Preuss to put it behind for a corner. Emslie stepped up this time, the forward swinging the ball into the area with Steph getting up to connect, Bradley-Auckland clearing but Claire sent it in again. Her cross was cleared once again by Bradley-Auckland and it fell to Steph on the edge of the box, the captain sending a powerful shot goal wards and agonisingly hit the post, Jill there to pounce on the loose ball with Lauren hitting the post.
Claire stepped up to take two corners shortly after, the first collected by Jemma Purfield with Christie Murray losing out to Keira, the midfielder finding Emslie again but Purfield intercepted and won City their second corner. The ball was picked up by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and then Rinsola Babajide, McManus dispossessed by Purfield but her clearance went out for a throw in.
Jill found herself dispossessed by Babajide, the forward making a run down the pitch, her cross blocked by Jill who’d got back to defend and was picked up by Roebuck.
Liverpool won a corner with two minutes of normal time to go in the half, Murray sending the ball in with Sweetman-Kirk getting her head to it and McManus clearing up pitch for Nikita to chase, the forward playing it down the line looking for a teammate; Purfield putting it out.
Ten minutes into the second half, Laura Coombs fired a low shot towards Ellie and forced her to make the save, winning Liverpool the corner which was taken by Murray, Daniels having an effort blocked by Houghton before the referee Lucy Oliver stopped play for a handball on Steph; awarding the visitors a penalty. Sweetman-Kirk stepped up and sent an effort low to Roebuck’s left, the keeper guessed the right way and almost got a hand to it however it crept in and the opposition were level.
On the hour mark, City won a corner with Weir swinging the ball in but Anke Preuss came out to punch the ball away, Jill and Jen getting their heads to it, Hemp losing out to Sweetman-Kirk with the forward making a run; Purfield sending it long for no one and Stokes collecting. Minutes later Keira played a ball wide for Abbie, the defender getting her head to the ball and substitute Tessa Wullaert crossing in for Caroline, Preuss making the save with her foot with Walsh getting involved again, but her chip aimed at a teammate was collected by the keeper.
Shortly after, Wullaert played the short corner to Abbie, playing a one touch sequence with the defender before sending a cross in at a better angle, Houghton getting her head on the ball but Preuss made an easy save.
In the first of a series of corners for the home side, Caroline stepped up to take two while Wullaert took the third, Weirs first a low shot put behind for the second corner by Sophie Bradley-Auckland with follow up played short to Tessa and headed behind by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk. Wullaert’s corner was swung in and headed away again by the Liverpool captain and City regained possession but couldn’t find the back of the net. Twenty minutes or so later, another string of corners was won by the home side, Caroline’s first cross punched away by Preuss and put behind by Leigh-Anne Robe, her second met by the head of Bradley-Auckland and the last headed away by Courtney Sweetman-Kirk but collected by substitute Georgia Stanway. The forward sent one of her powerful trademark shots towards goal however it went just wide of the post much to the frustration of the City fans.
In the second minute of added time, Houghton was dispossessed by Sweetman-Kirk and her shot at Ellie was collected comfortably.
The Blues snatched the win in the final minute of time as Jill was fouled by Amy Rodgers winning the free kick, Caroline stepping up to swing the ball into the area and onto the head of Jen Beattie, her Scotland teammate putting the ball into the back of the net.
Club football now breaks for the international period in which the Lionesses will play Canada at the Academy Stadium on Friday 5th April and Spain on Tuesday 9th at Swindon Town. Kick offs at 19:15 and 19:00 with both games televised on the BBC, Canada on BBC Four and Spain on BBC Two. City return to club football on Sunday 14th April in the SSE Women’s FA Cup semi final against Chelsea FC Women at home, kick off 15:30pm with tickets available.
Man City Women
Ellie Roebuck, Demi Stokes, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Jill Scott, Lauren Hemp (Georgia Stanway 72’), Nikita Parris, Caroline Weir, Claire Emslie (Tessa Wullaert 58’), Abbie McManus and Keira Walsh
Subs (not used): Karen Bardsley, Gemma Bonner, Mel Lawley, Pauline Bremer and Janine Beckie
Goals: Emslie 27’ and Beattie 90+3’
Bookings: Houghton 52’ and McManus 55’
Liverpool FC Women
Anke Preuss, Leigh-Anne Robe, Niamh Fahey, Sophie Bradley-Auckland ©, Laura Coombs, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, Christie Murray (Kirsty Linnett 67’), Yana Daniels, Amy Rodgers, Rinsola Babajide (Ashley Hodson 75’) and Jemma Purfield
Subs (not used): Fran Kitching, Leandra Little and Missy Bo Kearns
Goals: Sweetman-Kirk 51’ (PEN)
MCWFC OSC POTM: Caroline Weir
Referee: Lucy Oliver