Lucy Bronze gives Manchester City victory and sets up Lyon clash
Pep Guardiola watched on as Manchester City became only the third English club to reach the Champions League semi-finals where they will take on Lyon, the holders, for a place in the final in June.
The Catalan will have been pleased to witness how expertly Nick Cushing’s side dealt with Fortuna. The margin of the evening’s victory does not signify just how comfortable City were. The 1-0 win matched their victory in Denmark and Lyon, despite being three-times European champions, will hardly relish facing the English title-winners.
Although favourites to progress, City took time to establish an early rhythm. Passes went astray and touch was loose which allowed the Danish champions a foothold, with the midfielder Caroline Rask seeing one shot blocked from near the edge of City’s area. Yet Cushing’s side did ease into the contest as Jill Scott claimed its opening corner though when taken by Melissa Lawley it yielded nothing.
City lined up in a 4-1-4-1 that had Keira Walsh as the holding player and Carli Lloyd in central midfield behind Jane Ross. The American Lloyd produced the first half’s finest moment when dancing through the visiting defence to have only Maria Christensen to beat. But her left-foot effort passed not only the goalkeeper but her left post.
Before this City had carved out a chance via slick interplay that featured Lloyd passing to Ross who relayed possession to Jill Scott but the No8 could not finish.
Kosovare Asllani, operating along City’s right, also steered a header wide and now Fortuna came close to punishing this profligacy. Karen Bardsley was forced into a point-blank save from Camilla Kur Larsen, then Rask’s radar was off when she later shot to the keeper’s left.
Lloyd’s pedigree includes two Olympic golds and a hat-trick that helped win the last World Cup for the US and she was the class performer on show as the interval neared.
A sweet swivel-and-shot illustrated this and the sense was the 34-year-old could move up a couple of gears whenever she wished. The same went for her team-mates who displayed their superiority when Lucy Bronze headed home Melissa Lawley’s 41st-minute corner. City will play their semi-final in the second half of April and will be at home for the first leg.
Cushing said: “Lyon are the best team. It is an unbelievable achievement to get to the semi-finals in our first year. We’ll enjoy both games, putting ourselves up against the best. We’ve been unbeaten now for 21 months so we can draw on that.” The side he sent out showed no changes from the XI that won 1-0 in the first leg, when Lloyd dtruck six minutes earlier.
City’s second-half task was to close their opponents out. Bronze began by marauding along the right and pinging in a ball that asked Fortuna’s rearguard a question. Next up, Ross had to be tackled close to Christensen’s line as City claimed a corner.
From here they camped deep inside Danish territory to suggest Cushing had instructed attack was the way to guarantee passage.
For the latter stages Cushing took off Scott and Asllani for Tessel Middag and Nikita Parris, both slotting smoothly into City’s shape. By the close Cushing’s women had coasted home and how they will fare against Lyon’s multiple-trophy winning side should fascinate.
The French will be expected to reach their sixth final. Being underdogs may suit City just fine.