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Report: Bristol City Women 1-2 Manchester City Women

Bristol City put up a good fight against last season's champions Man City at the Stoke Gifford Stadium.

A quarter-final clash with last season’s WSL1 champions Manchester City was Bristol City’s reward for their dismantling of Millwall last week. The Vixens made two changes to their starting line-up, bringing in Chloe Arthur and Millie Farrow for wingers Olivia Fergusson and Lauren Hemp.

It didn’t take long for Man City to assert their dominance; they took an early lead after seven minutes’ play. Caitlin Leach saved well from an initial attack, but this was followed by a floated cross into a crowded area. Leach wasn’t able to punch cleanly and a scramble followed, with the ball catching Hayley Ladd and bouncing into the Vixens’ net, though Steph Houghton claimed the touch. A few minutes later, Toni Duggan tried to curl in a second from the left wing, but she didn’t trouble Leach.

At the other end, Bristol City had a golden opportunity to equalise twelve minutes in, but Man City keeper Marie Hourihan saved excellently to her right to deny Millie Turner’s towering header. It proved to be Bristol’s best chance in the first half-hour, as the WSL champions dominated possession.

Duggan sent in a curling ball from a corner which looked like it might drift all the way in on 27 minutes, but it was well-gathered by Leach. And a couple of moments later, Duggan flashed a shot wide to the left of the Vixens keeper’s post. The hat-trick of missed chances came on 30 minutes, as some good work from Parris allowed her to deliver a cross that was headed over by Georgia Stanway.

Farrow stormed past three City defenders on 33 minutes in a promising breakaway for Bristol City, but her low shot was comfortably saved to Hourihan’s left. There was a brief stoppage with half-time looming as Abbie McManus landed awkwardly after a challenge, but she returned to the field of play swiftly. And the final chance of the half for Man City came as Parris blazed over on the turn from inside the area, under pressure from multiple defenders, following a nodded-on corner to the far post.

However, the half wasn’t over as far as Bristol City were concerned. A cross-field ball found Emslie in acres of space on the halfway line, and her break into the penalty area resulted in her first shot rebounding, giving her a second opportunity from a tighter angle. Despite this, she made no mistake this time, and slotted home past Hourihan to rapturous cheers from the home crowd.

Two-time FIFA player of the year Carli Lloyd received a stern talking to from the referee six minutes into the second half, after taking out Ladd as she brought the ball out of defence. And nine minutes in, Man City had their first solid chance to retake the leadm as Leach’s save from Demi Stokes’ shot rebounded into a crowd of players with the goal open; Jas Matthews cleared as the Vixens’ defence held firm. On the hour mark, Houghton sent a header flying harmlessly wide as the ball was delivered from a free-kick.

Leach won plaudits from the crowd as she saved fantastically from Lloyd in a one-on-one after the American midfielder broke free; Lloyd then blazed narrowly over from the resulting corner. And for Bristol City, an encouraging Emslie break on the left-wing was cut short by a poor cutback into the area.

As Man City looked to push further up the pitch to get the winner, there was more space at the back for Bristol City to break into; time on the ball had been a rare luxury in the first half and remained scare, but Emslie, Farrow and Arthur all had opportunities to run at the Blues’ defence when the ball was passed out quickly from defence.

Houghton continued to be a strong presence during set-pieces as she blazed over from another Man City corner on 70 minutes, and headed wide after another five minutes later. But the Vixens’ maintained a well-marshalled backline to keep the Blues’ attack under pressure, hence the high corner count.

80 minutes in, Lucy Bronze’s shot from yet another corner was repelled, only for the ball to fall to an unmarked Parris; with just Loach to beat, she mishit her shot and the ball dropped wide, much to the home fans’ relief. Their hearts were in their mouths again minutes later when Bronze failed to convert at point-blank range from another corner – and yet another corner saw Vixens’ defenders hurling themselves in front of the ball to block after Leach clawed away a header.

The onslaught kept coming as Parris blazed another attempt over from the edge of the area, but she was not to be denied; the resolute Vixens’ defence was finally breached for a second time with two minutes of regular time to play, as Parris rolled her marker to squeeze her shot past Leach and into the far corner.

Vixens’ boss Willie Kirk was pleased with his side’s performance, despite the loss, but as always was keen to point out areas for potential improvement. “I feel very sorry for the girls. They put in a lot of effort.

“The important thing was going to be to stop conceding corners, rather than just defending them well, because one’s going to go in. But we said to them that Man City do not concede goals, and they don’t give up leads, and we’ve done both [of those] things today, so the players can take a lot of pride even from that statistic.

“We’ll analyse the game and see where we can improve, because there’s always room for improvement. A narrow defeat against the best team in England is not good enough for us – we want to kick on and improve. We won’t just accept it as “oh, we were unlucky” – we want to look at areas where we can do better.”