Manchester City Women produced a dominant display of attacking football as they hammered WSL newcomers Bristol City at the Joie Stadium. A brace each for Jill Roord and Bunny Shaw, and a header by Laia Aleixandri put the blues firmly in control as City moved to the top of the table.
And, in a WSL first this season, City finished with all 11 players on the pitch, a statistic that will no doubt please manager Gareth Taylor, who will have been pleased to get back to winning ways in the league after the disappointment of conceding late to Chelsea last weekend.
The blues were always going to be favourites against a team that has spent the last two seasons out of the WSL and have already lost their opening two games, and a trip to the Joie Stadium so early in the season would not be high on the Robins’ to-do list.
And, in a first half that City should utter domination, the visitors will have been happy to go in at half-time 5-0 down.
The writing was on the wall for the visitors as early as the ninth minute when Roord scored her first of the afternoon with a simple header. Before that, Bristol had forced a couple of corners in the opening moments and there was a tiny thread of concern that last week’s exploits against Chelsea, where City held out for so long with just nine on the pitch, that the blues may struggle to break down the visitors.
However, Roord put paid to any fears the faithful may have had by nodding home the opener when Shaw’s attempt bounced back off the bar, and the Australian was the quickest to react.
And, when Shaw looked to have made it 2-0 just minutes later, the floodgates were set to open on an afternoon that threatened to be a long and arduous one for the visiting Robins.
Thankfully to the new girls, Shaw was deemed offside and were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Conceding a second so quickly would have been disastrous for the visitors. Heads would have dropped and that would have invited City to pour forward and help themselves to more.
As it turned out, the Robins held City at bay for long periods of time, either through desperate defending, good goalkeeping or a mixture of both. At one point, the visitors had a brief foray into the City half, but barely caused any concern for Khiara Keating in the City goal.
All other times it was the blues pressing Bristol back into their own half, so it was no surprise when City made it 2-0 on 33 minutes. Alex Greenwood, back in the side after missing Wednesday’s Conti Cup victory at Everton, hit a free-kick into the box and Aleixandri’s flicked header flew past the keeper, who barely even noticed it had gone past her.
From then on, it would be a matter of damage control for the visitors which they achieved - but not until the second half.
By then, the blues had cruised into a 5-0 lead. Shaw guided home Mary Fowler’s cross into the bottom corner on 38 minutes to claim her first WSL goal of the season, and Roord made it 4-0 in injury time, with Fowler again the provider. The two Aussie’s combined and Roord claimed her third goal of the season with another header.
A fifth header, this time from Shaw, found its way into the Bristol goal, as the Jamaican got her second and City’s fifth.
As the whistle sounded for half-time, the visitors would have been wishing for a mercy rule, ending the match there and then. And when they emerged for the second 45, their game plan was clear - just pack the box and stop City scoring.
This time, the plan was carried out effectively.
City continued to dominate and push forward but, instead of finding City players free in the box, they found only the black shirt of the visitors, whose defence should be entitled to overtime pay for all the work they put into keeping City out. They even managed to get their only shot on target in the second half, which was comfortably saved by Keating.
The blues had a few chances in the second half, most notably Shaw almost completing her treble, but a last-ditch save by the keeper, who stuck out a hand to push the ball away as Shaw rounded her, was the closest the blues came to increasing their lead.
Next up for the blues is a top of the table clash at surprise package Leicester City Women. The Foxes were held at United on Sunday afternoon and only goal difference separates them from the blues.
Final score: Manchester City Women 5-0 Leicester City Women