Defenders on target
As was to be expected, Zvezda hit the ground running at home with Anastasia Pozdeeva drawing a save out of Karen Bardsley in the second minute. However, it didn’t take long for the Citizens to find their way, treated to an open game the English side began to exploit all the space available to them when Perm attacked. The game soon began to resembld the first-leg, with blue shirts running into a wall of red but earning plenty of corners for their troubles.
With a team that boasts one of the best aerial threats in WSL, it wasn’t a surprise when the Citizens took the lead at a corner, although an imposing figure in the air, Jennifer Beattie proved she’s deadly with the ball on the ground too. Catching Kosovare Asllani’s corner on the volley the former Gunner side-footed the ball across the box and into the far post, leaving Iryna Zvarich to clutch at air. Suddenly needing four goals to win - as extra-time was ruled out - and not up against a team affected by the traveling, Zvezda once more attempted to get forward and hurt the mean away defence but that only spurred the sky blues on, giving them more room to get forward.
Just minutes after City had opened the scoring, Asllani powered a shot against the woodwork in what would prove to be a forgettable night for the hosts at the Zvezda Stadium. Once more winning a corner off of the hosts, City doubled their advantage as Lucy Bronze smashed home the rebound after Zvarich had parried the initial cross. With the tie all but won the visitors once again settled into an attacking rhythm.
Just like in the first-half it was the hosts who came out on the attack at the start of the second, Ekaterina Pantyukhina’s snapshot seconds after the restart drifted behind Bardsley’s goal before the keeper once more took a goal kick after retrieving Alena Nurgalieva’s wayward effort. Despite their renewed attacking intent the hosts were once again trudging back to the centre circle for a restart after Beattie’s bullet header at (yet another) corner.
Yet every time they conceded, Perm only game back hungrier, more determined to rob Bardsley of her clean sheet. Captain Daryna Apanaschenko came agonisingly close after her side had worked the offside trap well and were flooding the City box, but was unable to keep her shot down as it slammed into the crossbar.
Even with Zvezda getting forward and breaking through the away defence their finishing left a lot to be desired, Pozdeeva’s attacking intent was superb but time after time she failed to hit the target and bother Bardsley. Conversely whilst Pantyukhina was putting her shots on target, the firm City defence stood tall and continued to block everything throw at their goal.
With the tie long over, Izzy Christiansen made it six on aggregate, scoring City’z first from open play. With the ball worked forward, sky blue shirts began to litter the box as the ball was passed around, Jill Scott’s square ball flashed across Christiansen’s path as she made a trademark unmarked run before firing the ball into the open goal.
Still the hosts tried to get forward, breaking down the staunch midfield but still they struggled to find a way through the last line of defence, by full time Bardsley had only faced two shots on target to eight off. A stark contrast to City who’d been clinical, finding the target with six of their nine, converting four of them, on paper nothing for Nick Cushing to complain about, but as always, room for improvement.