Toni Duggan's second-half strike secured a draw against Brondby IF as Manchester City extended their unbeaten run in all competitions, the draw enough to see them through to the next round of the UWCL.
As was to be expected – and as they needed to – Brøndby started on the offensive, looking to set the pace. An early miss-control from Jennifer Beattie afforded the hosts a chance to test their opponents, Nanna Christiansen the one to pounce but the visitors with numbers back closed the Danes out and Katrine Veje’s ball back in was not enough to give her teammates a good chance. A prolonged period of pressure saw the hosts asking all the question, City with an unsure answer, closing down the avenues but not clearing, Theresa Nielsen’s floated cross two inches too high for Christiansen – in behind the centre backs – to connect with.
Brøndby were determined to make their home advantage count and they began to pile the pressure on an unusually unsure City defence, but were unable to capitalise on any of their chances in the first twenty minutes. The Citizens looked dangerous with the ball and their intermittent attacks were even more reason for the hosts to take their chances.
Suddenly with numbers in the box, Brøndby looked over-run, Katrine Abel’s fine save was enough to keep Toni Duggan out but she needed her defence to mop up the scraps. The visitors were suddenly settling. Simone Boye’s block denied Duggan a shooting opertunity before Jane Ross and Jill Scott both went for the same aerial ball – and both missed. The chances were all falling the way of the visitors as Scott’s square ball dropped to Nikita Parris but the attacker fired her shot over the bar.
Seeing progressively less of the ball, and generally been allowed to do less with it when they had it, Brondby looked to break just after the half-hour when Veje ran with the ball at her feet. A clumsy challenge by Scott left them with a free kick 30 yards out, although Christiansen’s delivery was into the danger-zone there was no pressure on Karen Bardsley and the keeper raced out to claim. Another lapse at the back saw Nielsen played in, her touch and lay off to Christiansen wasteful when she could have taken the shot herself, the striker wide of the mark and another chance spurned.
Score square at break
Just as they did last week, the two sides went into the break deadlocked. Having both had chances, Brøndby were the more frustrating of the two, time and again a quick break would having been more dangerous but the hosts were happy to be sluggish with the ball.
Ponderous football playing into City’s hands, the visitors getting numbers back with ease making the task harder for the hosts, their passing not as smooth as it was in the first-leg. City for their part were doing enough, with a 1-0 lead anything but a defeat would suit them and they had looked dangerous in the second-half of the first-half, the hosts solid defending denying them.
Still slow in attack Brøndby saw a golden chance go begging when Julie Trustrup had a chance three yards out, her miss-kick a moment to forget as the visitors countered at pace, a corner sacrificed to preserve Abel’s clean sheet. Trustrup involved once again as she cleared Scott’s goal-bound header off of the line, a little drama at last.
Afters from a Duggan free kick saw the hosts push up and leave Parris unmarked, the wily attacker’s snapshot catching both defence and keeper out as it slammed against the top of the far post. The game hit the hour mark and the visitors saw another shot at a set piece cleared off of the line as Veje knocked Houghton’s shot clear.
The game finally got its first goal and a richly deserved one too, a sublime swivel and shoot from Duggan that saw the ball evade Abel via the woodwork. Suddenly needing three goals against one of the meanest defences in Europe, Brondby sparked into life and finally put the ball in the back of the net, a scrap that resulted in Christiansen firing past Bardsley from close range. For the hosts it was one down, two to go with the clock ticking.
After seeing two shots deflect off of Lucy Bronze and into Bardsley’s waiting gloves the keeper was left scrambling when Nicoline Sorenson’s deft header slipped just wide of the far post, centimetres away from a grandstand finish. The game wore on, far from being a feast for the eyes, two teams near or past the end of their season with little left in the tank, City knowing they were going through and the hosts quicker but frantic.
Neither team were at their best on a cold night in Copenhagen, a draw a fair result, Brøndby playing the price for failing to take their chances over both legs, a series of what if’s for the Danes. Nick Cushing will be desperate for an improved performance in the quarter finals, it virtually impossible to avoid the biggest and best in Europe.