Manchester City Women kick started their 2016 season with an impressive 3-1 win over Rosengard on a cold and windy day at the Academy Stadium. With the exception of Jennifer Beattie, who had spent the winter with sister club Melbourne City, and Daphne Corboz, for reasons unknown, manager Nick Cushing was able to name his strongest line up from the start handing debuts to Kosovare Asllani and Jane Ross in the City attack. City were also boosted by the return of Toni Duggan playing in the first team for the first time since suffering an injury last August whilst Beattie’s absence saw a rare start for Abbie McManus in the unusual position of central defensive partner to Steph Houghton
City started the brighter of the two teams with their slick intricate passing playing in Lucy Bronze who forced an early corner after her shot was deflected. Moments later Toni Duggan should have scored when she fired over from close range. City’s pressure continued and they thought they had taken the lead on 11 minutes when Asllani’s thunderous strike cannoned off the underside of the crossbar before Jane Ross’s rebound header was clawed off the line.
It was Ross who turned provider on 22 minutes when the Scottish international won the ball on the right, charged down the line and curled a terrific mid-height cross along the six yard line which beat the goalkeeper and presented Isobel Christiansen with virtually an open goal at the far post. The City forwarded finished comfortably firing high into the net from five yards out to give City a deserved lead. The goal did little to alter proceedings as City comfortably dominated the first half with particular note to Jill Scott, who looked to be in a much more advanced role in front of Kiera Walsh in the City midfield, who dominated the midfield in particular allowing City to press higher in the final third.
City’s relentless nature saw Jane Ross bundled over for a free kick from 30 yards which Captain Steph Houghton used to force a smart save from the Rosengard goalkeeper Musovic saving low in the bottom left hand corner. A minute later the Musovic was forced into another save as she was forced to parry another Houghton free kick around the post but City would have to settle for the one goal lead at half time but had dominated from pretty much start to finish.
City rang the half time changes as the manager opted to rest Lucy Bronze, Asllani and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley who had been a virtual spectator in the first half as they were replaced by Megan Campbell, Nikita Parris and debutant Marie Hourihan in goal. The reshuffle saw McManus, who had impressed in the first half, move to the more familiar right back as Campbell slotted in a centre back.
Parris took Asllani’s place on the right hand side of midfield and had an immediate impact as she beat her marker and broke down the right hand side and played a cool low pass into the penalty into the path of Toni Duggan whose shot just had enough to creep under Musovic in goal to give City a commanding 2-0 goal lead on 47 minutes. Parris should have made it 3-0 six minutes later as she broke through the defence one-on-one after a superb pass from Christiansen but her shot was hit straight at the out rushing goalkeeper when she really should have scored. City would be punished for Parris’ miss on 57 minutes as a rare Rosengard attack down the left lead by Alexandra Lowe Riley saw her low cross inadvertently deflected into her own goal by Houghton.
The goal failed to knock City out of their stride however and on 63 minutes Jane Ross thought she had opened her City account but saw her strike cleared off the line from the Rosengard captain Emma Berglund. On 70 minutes City restored their two goal lead as Parris was brought down just outside the penalty area, this time it was Izzy Christiansen who took the free kick duties whipping her free kick to the far post where it was headed home by Houghton.
From that point City were comfortable although there was a late scare to Toni Duggan as she was forced off with 15 minutes to go but later was revealed to have suffered only cramp. She was replaced by the Georgia Brougham as City secured an impressive win amidst an even more impressive and accomplished performance.
Team: Bardsley (Hourihan 45), Bronze (Campbell 45), Stokes, McManus, Houghton, Walsh, Asllani (Parris 45), Scott, Duggan (Brougham 73), Ross, Christiansen. Subs not used: Tynan