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Jane Ross bagged a brace on the night but the French outfit would prove victorious, thanks to a Valerie Gauvin double, plus Sakina Karchaoui and Sandie Toletti strikes.
City’s first game back since their international stars returned from the European Championships provided a challenging but useful encounter in the inaugural TILC tournament.
A young Blues side had kicked off the 2017/18 campaign with a friendly at Frankfurt last weekend, with Nick Cushing highlighting the importance of tough tests and fitness practice ahead of the new autumn season, in which City will look to retain their domestic treble.
Montpellier, whose pre-season fixture schedule began in mid-August, started the brighter and almost found an opener inside five minutes with three clear-cut chances. Stina Blackstenius beat the offside trap and was denied by a superb Steph Houghton block before the ball was cleared off the line and then headed over by Gauvin.
City responded well to the warning but spurned a glorious chance to take the lead, when the referee awarded a penalty for handball from Izzy Christiansen’s corner. Nikita Parris stepped up to take the spot-kick but Meline Gerard guessed right.
The Blues were punished two minutes later as Gauvin found herself perfectly placed behind the City defence to coolly slot into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes later, the French side doubled their lead as Karchaoui was played through one-on-one and finished at the near post.
Karchaoui turned provider as the third arrived on 38 minutes, finding herself in space on the left and whipping in a teasing ball which Gauvin stretched to volley into the top corner, leaving City with a tall ask at the break.
Montpellier continued where they left off, as Blackstenius forced Ellie Roebuck into a fine stop before Gauvin headed over.
The French side added their fourth on 51 minutes with Toletti’s long-range drive before substitute Ross netted her first of the night with the perfect lobbed finish on the hour.
The Blues sought to reduce the deficit further and, after trying their luck with long-range efforts, were successful as Ross bagged her second, smashing past Gerard in the last major action of the clash.
City face Lyon on Sunday 27 August (4:30pm local time, 3:30pm UK time), in a repeat of last season’s Champions League semi-final.
The game will be broadcast live on Lyon’s official television channel (OLTV).
The lucky winners of this special ticket will have the opportunity to attend an exclusive VIP experience.