Nick Cushing revealed a half-time tactical switch proved decisive in City’s Continental Cup semi-final victory over Chelsea.
The Blues had been under the cosh in the first half with Karen Bardsley coming to the visitors’ rescue on a number of occasions, as the hosts threatened from the wings.
Cushing admitted his side struggled to cope with the ‘overloading’ but was impressed with the way the team adapted to the change.
“Chelsea caused us problems tactically,” he reflected. “They didn’t do what we expected.
“We asked the players to adapt in the moment. Chelsea were really effective – they had three at the back and they overloaded the full-backs. Bright and Eriksson were clinical with the diagonal balls.
“We made a tactical shift at half-time. We changed things a bit. The players’ ability to adapt and apply the change in that moment was incredible.
“In the dressing room, I had 12 minutes to watch the video and work it out, which meant there were two minutes to explain it to the players.
“I wasn’t upset at half-time – I just had to figure out and solve the problem. After all, we were facing top level opposition.
“In the first five minutes and in little bits of the first half, I thought we passed it around well and had good moments. We just weren’t brave enough, as we had been in the league and cups previously.
“We had to put more pressure on the back three, pushing up. In the second half, we shifted things a little and the diagonal ball didn’t come so much. We shifted the space and they couldn’t overload.
“I asked the team to be a bit brave and offensively, get our level up. That happened.
“It’s easy for coaches to explain it on a tactics board, talking. The real magic is when the players produce it. It was incredible.”
Cushing also reserved praise for matchwinner Nikita Parris, who netted her seventh and eighth goals in six games.
“If you get Keets in one-on-one situations or put her through on goal, in the form she’s in, she’s clinical,” he added.
“It was a definite penalty [for the opening goal] and she tucked it away nicely, and the finish for the second goal killed the game.
“I always ask the team for a strong mentality and high intensity, but I don’t have to ask Keets. She has a ridiculous intensity with a high mentality and she’s on form, scoring. She’s a real asset.”
With City and Chelsea locking horns again on Sunday – the first of a ‘City v Chelsea double header – Cushing warned against complacency.
“It’s a big result, which will give us confidence, because we played well,” he continued, “but Chelsea will be motivated – wounded because we’ve beaten them at home.
“Our commitment to every competition has to be 100%. That’s why we have a competitive squad of players.
“We want to win everything. For us, there is a danger that it is hard to beat the same team twice in quick succession.
“They’ll be motivated and they’ll watch the game back, having learned a lot about us. We have to make sure we don’t get complacent and think we’re going to go on and win.
“It will be a different type of game. We’re happy to be back at home and we have to make sure we’re on it on Sunday.”