Manchester City have ended their 2019 on a high after defeating Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 at the Academy Stadium in Manchester this afternoon.
Both sides had their qualification for the knockout stages of the FA Women’s Continental League Cup confirmed midweek, however, City did it without having to play a game. Therefore, at first glance City could have been expected to be the fresher side going into the match. Conversely, it could be argued that City went into the match lacking momentum having fallen to a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea last weekend.
It was the worst possible start from Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion side when goalkeeper Sophie Harris was adjudged by referee Lucy Oliver to have picked up a deliberate pass from Matilde Lundorf Skovsen in the opening two minutes of the match. The consequential indirect free-kick was laid off by Caroline Weir for captain Steph Houghton who drilled the ball hard and low through the crowd of on-rushing Brighton & Hove Albion players into the net.
Following last week’s defeat to Chelsea, Manchester City boss Nick Cushing could not have asked for a better response from his players. City wasted little time in doubling their lead. The ball was played out to Janine Beckie on the right and a low, powerful cross was hammered in first time by Ellen White. Many would have anticipated White to take a month or two to acclimatise to her new surroundings, yet despite missing the start of the season through injury, the Lionesses forward hasn’t missed a beat since she has returned and is performing like she was never away.
City soon asserted their dominance with their third goal before half-time. A floated corner from Georgia Stanway was met at the back post by Houghton who headed back across goal for Lauren Hemp to nod in the third for City. Not renowned for her heading prowess, you could imagine that this will be a collector’s item in what is shaping up to be a successful career for the young winger. This was Hemp’s third goal in all competitions this season and perfect way for her celebrate signing a new contract with the club last week.
Cushing will have gone into the half-time break slightly dissatisfied as his City side could’ve been five or six up if it weren’t for missed chances from the likes of Jill Scott and White. With goal difference possibly playing a part at the top this season, racking up convincing scorelines could be the difference between winning and losing the league title.
However, Brighton & Hove Albion looked to be the ones likely to grab the first goal of the second period. A corner drifted in from the left resulted in a duel in the air between home keeper Roebuck and Albion forward Ini Umotong. The ball rolled into the back of the net but after some initial confusion. the referee’s verdict was that Roebuck had been impeded and a free kick was awarded.
Brief glimpses of a comeback didn’t last long and the home side soon made it 4-0. A through ball from deep by Kiera Walsh beat the high line of the Brighton & Hove Albion defence and it was latched onto by Georgia Stanway. Bearing down on goal and only Harris to beat the City forward rounded the keeper and slotted the ball into the empty net.
City rounded off their victory with a fifth goal in the dying moments of the game. Beckie, provider of the second goal, whipped in another tantalising cross which was turned in unorthodoxly with her knee by substitute Pauline Bremer. The German international has been City’s top scorer in the league so far this season but had missed the last couple of games through injury and risked losing her crown to White. Consequently, she will have been delighted to have scored on her comeback to the side.
This 5-0 result means that City now cap the year off in the UEFA Champions League spaces whereas Brighton & Hove Albion are just hovering over the relegation zone. Both teams will be looking forward to tomorrow’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup draw. Brighton & Hove Albion will be hoping they don’t come up against today’s deadly opponents in the competition.