UEFA Women’s Champions League SF – Manchester City 1-3 Olympique Lyonnais: Citizens outclassed at home
Image credit: VAVEL

Saki Kumagi's second minute penalty set the tone for Lyon as they eased to victory over Manchester City in the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League semi final.

Fast Start

It took all of 28 seconds for Lyon to have their first sight of goal as Camille Abily fed the attackers in front of her from Sarah Bouhaddi’s hurried clearance, the visitors able to cut through the defence and draw an early corner. The corner well delivered was equally as well cleared from near the back-post but with Lyon easy to get to the second ball, all it took was for Saki Kumagi to send it back into a dangerous area. However all the Japanese international found in front of her was Carli Lloyd, namely her outstretched arm, in the box. With a clear view of the incident, referee Katalin Kulcser wasted no time in pointing to the spot.

Having won the penalty and usually reliable form the spot there was no surprise to see Kumagi standing over the ball, the ball delivered into the right side of the net as Karen Bardsley dived right. 102 seconds was all the clock read as the ball bounced against the back of the net, the French champions with a very early lead.

The Citizens responded well to going down, their usually reliable defence looking to get back to basics as Lyon passed the ball around, looking for their moments to cut forward. Mel Lawley, Toni Duggan and Lloyd all looked for the quick break, at least one usually pushed up against the centre backs, the Lyon line high.

Having been absent from recent squads, Duggan was determined to remind Nick Cushing of her worth and hard work up against Kadeshia Buchanan saw the Citizen send the ball into space for Kosovare Asllani to run onto. Well used to the pace not just of Champions League football but French teams, the Swedish international showed she’s no slouch as she burst beyond the last man to find herself one-on-one with Bouhaddi. With the keeper well off of her line, Asllani went early, her ball well behind Bouhaddi with enough to carry it over the line and into the far corner. A well-time response from the hosts.

Lyon back on top

If there’s one truism about Lyon it’s that you simply can’t stop them from scoring, and City’s parity lasted little more than five minutes for Dzsenifer Marozsán cracked a beauty from outside the area, her shot punched beyond Bardsley and into the back of the net. But as is always the way with Lyon, the goal was product of the sterling build up from the whole team, Abily and Ada Hegerberg able to find space in the attacking third and feed the German midfield maestro.

A team well used to dropping and defending in banks, City found themselves carved open time after time, simple through balls gouging holes through the lines. The starlets that riddle the OL team able to turn, shimmy and roll, their footwork to silky for the hosts, the English champions sent back to school. Though they continued to fight, their best attacking play seen out wide, Lawley proving herself to be a canny acquisition but the end product just wasn’t there for the Citizens.

Lyon ended the first-half, unsurprisingly on top, still probing for their next goal, happy to pass the ball around and wait for the gaps to appear, the defence sitting deeper but nowhere close enough to the attacking team.

More of the same

Lyon started as they meant to go on, clean passing between Marozsán and Hegerberg saw Alex Morgan played in, the ball a little too loose for the US international who connected with the ball as Bardsley wrapped her outstretched gloves around it.

With everyone piled into the home half the Citizens were fortunate to see the eventual shot on goal come from Griedge Mbock Bathy, her lacklustre strike easily cleared by one of the many defending bodies back. Able to clear the ball and mount an attack, City were rewarded with a corner that was immediately pulled back to rough-housing in the box.

A number of niggly fouls stopped the passage of play, the referee quick to her while, the game stop and starting to the hour mark. After leading with her elbow, Wendie Renard was first in the book and the home fans found their voice again, the yellow bringing a bigger cheer than Asllani’s goal.

Up against a like of team never encountered by them before, City looked devoid of ideas, ball started and unable to get any part of their natural game going, the UWCL holders unlikely to wear down as so many WSL opponents had before them. However, at 1-2 down the hosts were very much still in the game until second-half substitute Eugénie Le Sommer popped up at the far post to bury the ball beyond Bardsley and give the visitors the cushion they deserved.

Late chances

The game began to drag after Lyon’s third, more space opening up for both teams but even with the ball he hosts looked a little toothless, without a footing in the match, the place in Europe rapidly dissolving. Although they still faced a mass of blue shirts to get around when they got forward, Lyon still seemed adept at dealing with the deep lying defence, another goal loomed, the hosts watching the clock tick down.

Two late substitutions gave City a little more fire, Georgia Stanway the player who looked to make things happen, her timed run surely enough to see her clean through against any domestic defence but, Mbock stood tall to force a corner. The home fans almost with something to cheer as the first-time shot cannoned against the upright before smacking into Bouhaddi and out to be whisked away by the visitors.

Other substitute Izzy Christiansen almost had her own joy as she broke behind, a tangle with Buchanan and Bouhaddi enough to prevent her taking advantage of the wide open goal Bouhaddi had left. Even deep into stoppage time the Citizens were determined to finish strong and again nearly clawed another goal back when Demi Stokes’ deep cross was met by Jill Scott the industrious midfielder only able to nod just wide of the near post.