FOOTBALL: BLUES Ladies’ hopes of FA Cup glory were dashed as a formidable Manchester City put them to the sword with a rampant first half display.
The reigning WSL1 champions simply had too much quality on the day for Marc Skinner’s valiant Blues side.
Blues had the first effort at goal in the eighth minute when Freda Ayisi fired a firm 25-yard strike towards the top right corner but Karen Bardsley gathered safely.
However, the champions and Continental Tyres Cup holders soon sprang into life and, just two minutes after Megan Campbell had fired into the side-netting from Isobel Christiansen’s corner, Nick Cushing’s side took the lead.
Lucy Bronze broke the deadlock when she stooped to head home at the near post from Campbell’s superb inswinging free kick from the right.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0 when Blues were caught in possession on their left and the talismanic Bronze centred a beautiful cross which was superbly fired into the roof of the net on the half-volley by Christiansen from 12 yards.
Man City were now rampant and former Blues ace Mel Lawley almost increased their advantage just past the half hour mark, only for Ann-Katrin Berger to tip her effort wide at the near post.
However, it was 3-0 just seconds later when Berger was unable to lay a glove on Campbell’s left-wing cross and American star Carli Lloyd headed home at the far post.
Berger made a smart save to deny Nikita Parris nine minutes into the second half, pushing the forward’s curling right-footed effort from close range beyond the far post.
The tireless Ellen White came close to reducing Blues’ arrears in the 62nd minute with a firm 30-yard strike which was only just gathered on the line by Bardsley.
Man City responded as substitute Toni Duggan bore down on goal on the left, but Berger was smartly off her line to deny the England striker in the 66th minute.
Blues, to their immense credit, never surrendered and they gave themselves hope in the 73rd minute when substitute Charlie Wellings fired a brilliant left-footed 18-yard strike into the bottom left corner from Ellie Brazil’s pull-back.
However, Cushing’s side made sure of victory in the 80th minute when England midfielder Jill Scott raced into the box and showed superb composure to rifle the ball beyond the despairing dive of Berger into the top left corner.
Even then, Blues could and probably should have scored again a minute later but White fired over from close range from Jess Carter’s cross from the right.
Pictures credit: Mark Farnell.