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Vixens Win Big In Ireland

Raheny United 0-4 Bristol Academy
Champions League, Round of 32


Bristol Academy Women’s Football Club all but secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Raheny United.

On a chilly night in Dublin’s Richmond Park, home of St. Patricks Athletic, goals from Natasha Harding (twice), Nicola Watts and Natalia put Academy in the driving seat for the tie.

Harding returned to the starting line-up following an injury lay-off that saw her play a bit-part in the Vixen’s final home game of the season, which ended in a 2- 0 defeat to Notts County.

But Academy’s recent league form was forgotten on their return to the Champions League after a two-year absence, as they secured an invaluable lead prior to the second leg, which will be hosted at Ashton Gate on Thursday, October 16th, 7.30pm.

Raheny began the tie with real endeavour and looked to be thriving on their underdog status. Striker Danielle Sheehy had a decent effort from 25 yards that narrowly went over the bar as Academy were caught on the back foot in the opening ten minutes.

However, backed by a vocal section of Academy fans who made the trip, the tide soon turned. The visitors put together several nice passing moves without threatening.

The ever-evasive Natalia Pablos Sanchon lifted the ball over a scrambling foot from Raheny United’s captain Rebecca Creagh only to be scythed down before Jemma Rose smashed the resulting free-kick wide.

Corinne Yorston, who offered a steady presence throughout, picked out Natalia with a neat pass to put her through on goal, only for the Spanish international to drive straight at the keeper.

Raheny offered much fight throughout and several tough challenges broke up play, with the first yellow of the game being presented to Creagh, who was penalised for a high and late challenge on Natasha Harding.

Watts, who was a constant threat and offered Academy an excellent creative outlet, ran directly at the Raheny defence and picked out an ever-lively Harding for her first of the evening, driving the ball across keeper Niamh Burke.

Natalia, Watts and Harding were at the end of all things positive for Academy and just before half-time there were several chances as they linked up and caused the Raheny’s defence problems.

The second half started balanced on a knife-edge and there was little give between the two sides, with neither giving an inch in the opening 15 minutes before Watts hit an ambitious effort from 25 yards that swerved and dipped in the air but was pushed out for a corner.

Raheny responded quickly and created their first clear-cut chance in the second-half when McCabe received the ball to feet in the box and turned on a six-pence. Excellent defending from Academy ensured the shot never went further than the feet of Jasmine Matthews, who played an integral part in the clean sheet during a game in which Mary Earps was rarely tested.

Raheny experienced a second wind midway through the half, which culminated in Earps’ only save of note as she got down low to her right in order to push away a good header from Pearl Slattery’s header.

Fitness began to play its part as Academy began to exert their dominance.

At 1-0 it really could have gone either way but once Harding netted her second 12 minutes from time, it was all one-way traffic.

Watts took advantage of an opening 20 yards from goal and after her shot was tipped on to the crossbar, Harding bundled home the rebound.

Boss Dave Edmondson went for the jugular by introducing Laura Del Rio for the more conservative Corinne Yorston. Del Rio made an immediate impact following some tricky work down the left before picking out Natalia and her shot was well blocked. Burke then denied Natalia’s superb volley from the resulting corner.

When Noelle Murray limped off near the end, Raheny were down to ten men having used all three substitute, and Academy took full advantage. 

In added time Watts and Natalia combined again before the latter was hacked down in the box. Watts stepped up and duly dispatched the spot-kick into the furthest reaches of the top-right corner before Del Rio’s great work and pin-point cross from the left found a lethargically-marked Natalia free to wrap up the tie with a powerful header.