On a chilly Wednesday evening, 1,195 people turned out for the beginning of Manchester City Women’s third assault on the FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) title. More press were present than usual and the BBC were presenting live radio commentary on the match.
There was a buzz — the kind of buzz you get when something big is happening. It was a world away from exactly one year ago when City kicked off its season in the FA Cup to then FA WSL 2 side Doncaster Rovers Belles. The crowds were smaller, the attention was less, and nobody really knew who now England heroine Lucy Bronze was at the time!
How things change as the main stand at the CFA was packed well before the teams marched out. Names now synonymous with English football were greeted with cheers that got bigger and bigger with every reading. Bronze, Steph Houghton, Toni Duggan, and so on. Players now who are firmly in the news, in the public eye, and helping to change the perception of women’s football in England — especially for young girls looking to avoid the troubled paths their idols had into the professional game.
The game itself was a fast frenzy early on; City pushed but couldn’t break down the superb Megan Walsh in goal, while Danielle Buet, Amy Turner, Maja Krantz, and the returning Sophie Bradley were fantastic in front of her. Jess Clarke scuffed her big chance wide from the spot before Duggan was thwarted by Walsh from the spot at the other end.
The goal did finally come, and it was Houghton who popped up as she has done quite regularly throughout preseason. Her free kick probably should have been kept out by Walsh who will be disappointed to end such a promising debut with an error that ended up costing her team a well-earned point.
Final Score Manchester City Women 1 – 0 Notts County Ladies
What They Said
After the match, Nick, Rick, and Steph spoke with Andrew Gibney and Sportsbeat, as well as Rich Laverty.
“I’m proud of the players tonight. We always speak about sticking to what we do, forcing the issue, and I thought we deserved it. It was a mistake from their goalkeeper but I think we got what we deserved.”
“I’ll share our recruitment strategy with you. We wanted a goalkeeper, a left-sided defender, a forward, and a creative player and then push up our development-squad players. All that money is wasted if we’re not going to trust our young players. The sixteen we had today with the other five in the stand, we can be happy with that.”
“We trust our defenders to get the ball down and play – we want ball-playing footballers all over the park. If we’d come away with a point, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe as we played really well and dominated the ball. We’re waiting for a team to come at us and Arsenal will probably do that on Monday.”
“We were seconds away from a master plan. We were playing away at a terrific team and as an away team we did everything right – we worked our socks off.
“It was a poor free-kick to give away but the young girl in goal had an absolute stormer. I only told her last night she was playing – she’s got more to improve on but I’m really pleased with her and everyone else. It gives us a lot of confidence moving forward – we’ve got Arsenal next and we’re a small-knit squad but with that sort of attitude we’ll be okay.
“But you can’t come to Manchester City and just have that defensive side of your game. We worked on different scenarios but the side have got to be proud of what they did tonight. In my teams, work rate is a requirement but we need to work the ball and bringing in players like Angharad James will help us with that.”
“I can’t remember the goal! The main thing is we got three points because we knew how important it was to start with a win. They made it frustrating for us at times but we made a slow start last season so we knew it was important to score the winner.”
“Good teams know how to win — that was mentioned in the dressing room. Some games last year we didn’t have that cutting edge but today we showed that patience and cutting edge, it doesn’t matter if it’s the third minute or the 93rd minute.”