Manchester City 8-1 Bristol City
by Ben Gilby
Manchester City gained a routine victory over a weakened Bristol City side in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League this afternoon.
Controversy reigned before kick-off with Bristol City releasing a statement revealing that they had requested a postponement after five of their first team players were following Covid-19 protocols and isolating as per Public Health England guidance. The statement revealed: “One player developed Covid like symptoms overnight and as a result of players living in a shared house, Charlie Wellings, Gemma Evans, Ella Mastrantonio, Abi Harrison and Meaghan Sargeant are now isolating. The FA has directed that the game should go ahead and Bristol City has accordingly drafted in players from the club’s academy.”
This news meant that a match that was already going to be a stern test for Tanya Oxtoby’s side, without a FAWSL win all season, with only one league goal scored and playing a Continental Cup tie at Crystal Palace less than forty-eight hours before this match, now appeared to take on insurmountable proportions.
However, for the vast majority of the half, not only were Bristol City well organised they were also full of effort and energy and it looked likely that the ‘Vixens’ would get their reward with a score line closer than many expected.
Manchester City dominated the early exchanges with fast tempo passing looking to find and then exploit gaps in the visitors defence. Crucially in this stage, the Vixens held firm.
It took six minutes for the ball to finally leave the Bristol City half of the pitch and their star striker Ebony Salmon’s hard work was rewarded with a throw-in near the 18 yard box. Jenna Purfield and Australian international Chloe Logarzo combined well to play a ball in, but the Sky Blues cleared the danger.
However the sustained pressure on the visitors finally told after nine minutes when Laura Coombes combined with Georgia Stanway on the left. Her cross led to a scrimmage in the six yard box which ended with the ball bouncing off Bristol City keeper Sophie Baggeley and into the net.
To their eternal credit, Bristol City went straight up the field and were level within two minutes – although there was a large degree of fortune about it. Ebony Salmon stole the ball from City keeper Ellie Roebuck on the edge of the area and had all the time in the world to slot the ball into the empty net.
The visitors were, unsurprisingly, buoyed by this and kept their shape exceptionally well. Gareth Taylor’s side dominated possession, but were profligate in front of goal as Ellen White inexplicably missed the target after being played in brilliantly by Lucy Bronze. Two minutes later, USNWT star Sam Mewis badly miscued a header from Chloe Kelly’s cross.
Just as the side from the South-West looked to have done more than enough to take a 1-1 score line in to half-time, the hosts finally broke through. Laura Coombes strode into the box and rifled a confident finish past Baggeley with six minutes of the half left.
Two further goals in the following four minutes emphasised the gulf in the two sides’ team sheets. On forty-two minutes Keira Walsh fired past Baggeley’s despairing dive from the edge of the area.
Tanya Oxtoby’s charges immediately stormed up the pitch and earned a corner. The Sky Blues gained possession from the set-piece and mounted an instant counter attack. A great run from Lucy Bronze resulted in the former Olympique Lyonnais star hitting her side’s fourth off of the post.
The home side confirmed their dominance with a fifth goal within three minutes of the re-start. An inch perfect delivery from the right from Lucy Bronze was tapped home with easy by Georgia Stanway.
City kept pushing and continued to completely dominate all aspects of the game. Alex Greenwood combined with Jill Scott after fifty-nine minutes to play a ball in. Ellen White stuck out a foot and number six was the result.
A combination of Manchester City taking their foot off the gas and the visitors rallying superbly saw the floodgates momentarily close – with some outstanding goalkeeping from Sophie Baggeley who produced three wonderful saves also aiding her side.
First, Greenwood found substitute Janine Beckie who fired in a vicious effort which the Vixens’ custodian did well to repel. Just six minutes later, Greenwood was involved again and got away a great strike from the left hand side of the box and Baggeley got down brilliantly to save.
The Sky Blue’s patient, probing passing was resulting in total domination. It took until the thirty-first minute of the second half for Bristol City to get out of their own half and almost as soon as they did so, disaster struck as Chloe Logarzo lost possession to Ellen White. The Lionesses’ sharp shooter broke through and found Janine Beckie whose effort from the right made it seven.
With five minutes to go, White grabbed her second of the afternoon. A direct ball over the top saw her lose marker Jas Matthews and knock home City’s eighth at the near post.
The home side had two further opportunities to further increase their lead in stoppage time. First, Greenwood hit a screamer that came back off of the near post, and then Ellen White was denied her hat-trick after Baggeley made a top class save from the City star’s turn and instant shot.
This was a game that, realistically Manchester City were always going to win. The score line will not necessarily reflect a fantastic effort from Bristol City. The Vixens fans should be incredibly proud of their team – they quite literally gave it their all.
Teams: MANCHESTER CITY: Roebuck, Bronze, Houghton, Bonner, Greenwood, Walsh, Mewis, Coombs, Kelly, White, Stanway. Substitutes: Bardsley (GK), Scott, Beckie, Morgan, Park, Weir, Lavelle.
Scorers: Baggeley OG 9, Coombes 39, Walsh 42, Bronze 43, Stanway 48, White 59, 85, Beckie 81.
BRISTOL CITY: Baggeley, Matthews, Rafferty, Logarzo, Humphrey, Salmon, Daniels, Allen, Bissell, Purfield, Layzell. Substitutes: Haaland (GK), Collis, Cook, Wilson, Jones.
Scorer: Salmon 11.
Referee: Christiana Hattersley.