City on song in Austria
City’s second Women’s Champions League campaign kicked off in style with a 3-0 win at SKN St Polten.
Goals from Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris handed the Blues another impressive triumph in the Round of 32, continuing their rampant scoring streak.
So far in their three games of 2017/18, City have scored 12 goals – with seven different scorers – stating their intentions for the new campaign loudly and clearly.
The result in Austria hands Nick Cushing’s side an excellent advantage ahead of next Thursday’s return leg at the Academy Stadium. The only negatives to an entertaining affair were injuries to Jill Scott and Polten substitute Claudia Wasser, who were both forced off.
The meeting at the NV Arena represented the first time the Blues, who reached the semi-finals in their Champions League debut last year, would lock horns with European opposition at this stage of their domestic season. Last year, their Round of 32 clash against Zvezda Perm took place at the end of the English campaign.
The switch in format was introduced to aid English teams’ participation on the international stage. So far, so good for City…
St Polten had reached this stage of the competition on three occasions with their Round of 16 appearance in 2016 their best performance.
After a hotly-contested opening 20 minutes in this tie, in which the home side - buoyed by a vocal home crowd – threatened on several occasions through Mateja Zver, City gained control and soon discovered the attacking ruthlessness they had showcased over the past fortnight.
Youngster Ellie Roebuck had to be alert on seven minutes though, racing off her line to clear the danger, before Zver curled inches wide.
Meanwhile, Georgia Stanway went closes for the Blues with her effort bouncing just wide of the post. Minutes later though, City broke the deadlock through an unlikely source: Stokes.
The left-back raced onto Izzy Christiansen’s through-ball before smashing past Jasmin Boisits and in off the crossbar. It was a superb finish and just her third goal in sky blue.
With the lead, the visitors never really looked like relinquishing it. Stanway almost doubled the lead – only to drive straight at Boisits at the near post – while Parris was unfortunate to see a header fly wide.
City extended their lead just after the half-hour mark as skipper Houghton stepped up to unleash a trademark free-kick into the bottom corner – another goal of real quality.
Four minutes later, Parris handed the Blues an unassailable lead at the break, heading home Stokes’ delivery for her first goal of the season.
St Polten should have reduced the deficit before half-time but Jennifer Klein headed wide, while Roebuck denied Fanni Vago and Viktoria Pinther after the restart, as the home side rallied.
Jasmin Eder then struck the crossbar and Roebuck was called into action again to tip over.
At the other end, Parris went in search of her second of the game with a mazy run past several Polten defenders. Boisits was equal to the resulting shot though.
Houghton thought she had netted her second of the game with two minutes of normal time remaining, heading in off the crossbar – but the lineswoman’s flag was raised.
Three would be enough on the night to secure another successful European away trip for Cushing’s side, kicking off their new European adventure in the perfect fashion.
City travel to Everton on Saturday (7pm) in the Super League before welcoming St Polten to the Academy Stadium on Thursday 12 October (7pm).
Tickets for the Champions League clash are on sale and are available at tickets.mancity.com.