With 249 days until the final in Budapest, the 32 qualified teams from across Europe took to their respective pitches to kick-off their bid for a spot in the next round of the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Unfavoured hosts excel
With a simple format that sees unseeded teams drawn against seeded sides, given the benefit of the home leg, four teams came out on top as debutants Juventus dug out a draw. With both Italian sides dawn against experienced Danish opposition, the booming Serie A claimed a hearty win over the Scandinavian mainstays. In a near-repeat of their round of 32 clash last season, Fiorentina bested 3fLigen champions Fortuna Hjørring by two goals to nil, Ilaria Mauro with a brace.
225 miles north of the Artemio Franchi, Juventus were engaged in their own game of tug-of-war with Brøndby, Barbara Bonansea’s brace book-ending goals from Nicoline Sørensen and 18-year-old Mille Gejl.
Back in Scandinavia, Norwegian champions LSK were seeing Zvezda-2005 off with ease, a second minute strike from Anja Sønstevold setting the pace before Ingrid Kvernvolden struck a second 12 minutes later. The match wrapped up ten minutes from time by Emilie Haavi, with no other league distractions – LSK having just sealed the title with plenty of the season left – there isn’t likely to be any slip ups in Moscow.
The more clinical team on the night, much to the surprise of many commentators, perennial Kazakh champions BIIK Kazygurt proved to be too much for a sloppy Barcelona side. An Alexia Putellas own goal at the end of the first half punctuated the misery for the hosts, Fazila Ikwapit’s effort early in the second half enough to have the visitors reeling. A third followed for BIIK curtesy of Gulnara Gabelia before Toni Duggan snatched a conciliatory away goal, leaving the Catalans with a lifeline.
Having fallen at the first hurdle last season in the UWCL, Ajax made a strong start this time out, claiming a healthy 2-0 win over experienced Czech side, Sparta Praha. Iina Salmi gave the hosts the lead early in the second half before Kelly Zeeman doubled the advantage with an inch-perfect free kick ten minutes later.
On top from the outset, Atletico Madrid will be licking their wounds after a stilted match that saw plenty of chances but enough goals for the hosts. A header from Gemma Bonner at a well-taken corner gave Manchester City the unlikely lead 16 minutes in as they battled against a storm from the hosts. Champions of Spain, Atleti continued to roll the dice on the pitch, too often coming up with snake eyes for all their efforts, well deserving of a goal, a late deflected pass from Kenti Robles gave them hope in the tie as it curled over Karen Bardsley and into the net.
Last years semi-finalists show their class
Kicking off their campaign in Norway, Lyon stuttered against an Avaldsnes team having a season to forget, notoriously unlucky with European draws, last season’s Toppserien runners-up gave a strong account of themselves against the reigning UWCL champions. Boasting a clean-sheet at the break, their resolve finally bucked five minutes after the restart thanks to an Amandine Henry strike before Amel Majri added a second for good measure.
Not firing on all cylinders, still awaiting the start of their domestic season, Wolfsburg wheezed to a 1-0 win over Úrvalsdeild champions Þór/KA. Steely defending from the hosts and wastefulness from the visitors enough to keep the scores close though Þór may yet regret some of their own missed chances with Pernille Harder's lone goal the difference at the half-way point.
Finally a seeded team, Chelsea travelled to Sarajevo safe in the knowledge that for now at least, they’ll be avoiding Wolfsburg. Facing little resistance from SFK 2000, the English champions soon took the lead through Millie Bright before Drew Spence and Maria Thorisdottir added the second and third before the break. A missed Fran Kirby penalty ten minutes from time matter not as Ji So-yun and Adelina Engman fired another two past Envera Hasanbegović in the dying minutes.
In similarly potent form, Linköping eased to a hearty win over Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv in the Ukraine, Frida Maanum the catalyst for the visitors, her hat trick paired with a brace of assists for Lina Hurtig and Marie Alidou. Johanna Rasmussen claimed the fifth of the night for the Swedish champions after the hosts had pulled one back through Ganna Voronina, the win likely to be galvanising as Linköping look to build momentum over the end of the season.
Fairing better than their cross-town rivals, Slavia Praha saw Gintra Universitetas off with a late drive in Šiauliai. Michaela Dubcová’s brace on either side of Tereza Szewieczková’s effort enough to leave the Czech team in the driving seat for the return leg at the FK Viktoria Stadion.
Seeded teams grab all important away goals as Munich and Paris dominate
In a tense match in Helsinki, experienced Swiss side Zürich claimed an imperative away goal through veteran Marina Moser whilst Swedish mainstays, Rosengård came out on top on Ryazan after a stoppage time own goal from Anna Belomyttseva.
In Limassol, Glasgow City hit the ground running with an early goal from Hayley Lauder before Kirsty Howat found a late second against Barcelona FA.
A mixed back in the UWCL, Bayern Munich made no mistakes with their healthy win over Serbian side Spartak Subotica. An early goal from Gina Lewandowski had the visitors up before Jill Roord’s first half brace put the match out of reach before the break. The visitors only amped up the pressure in the second half, Lina Magull’s penalty after the hour was added to by a returning Jovana Damnjanović before defender Kristin Demann made it six and Lineth Beerensteyn fired in a stoppage time seventh.
With an average age of 20.75, PSG’s goalscorers couldn’t be accused of being long in the tooth but they showed their experience with a relaxed win over Austria champions St. Pölten. Playing her second game for the Parisiens, and earning her first start, summer signing Signe Bruun got the visitors off to the perfect start outside of Vienna, putting the hosts on the back foot for minutes in. A second fast followed from Kadidiatou Diani, Fanny Vágó’s penalty pulled the Austrians within one before late goals from Marie-Antionette Katoto and Paulina Dudek sealed the tie.
Full results of first round
Honka 0-1 Zürich
Fiorentina 2-0 Fortuna Hjørring
Ajax 2-0 Sparta Praha
Avaldsnes 0-2 Olympique Lyonnais
Ryazan-VDV 0-1 Rosengård
Juventus 2-2 Brøndby
SFK 2000 0-5 Chelsea
Atlético Madrid 1-1 Manchester City
Þór/KA 0-1 VfL Wolfsburg
Gintra Universitetas 0-3 Slavia Praha
BIIK Kazygurt 3-1 Barcelona
Barcelona FA 0-2 Glasgow City
Spartak Subotica 0-7 Bayern München
St. Pölten 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain
Zhytlobud-1 Kharkiv 1-6 Linköping
LSK 3-0 Zvezda-2005