The words of Nick Cushing, as he addressed the media ahead of City’s Champions League quarter-final clash with Linkoping. The boss wanted a reaction… and a reaction he received.
The Blues claimed a strong advantage to take to Sweden in a week’s time, as Nikita Parris and Jane Ross were on the scoresheet in a comfortable 2-0 win over Linkoping at the Academy Stadium.
In an entertaining first leg affair, Lina Lantz was sent off in the first half for the visitors, who were outplayed, as the home side rekindled their high standard of performance at the perfect opportunity.
The Blues boss had called for a bright start from his side and the Blues responded, dominating the opening 45 minutes.
Facing a physical and ‘robust’ Swedish outfit, the hosts regained long periods of possession, creating plenty of chances.
Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh went close – the latter striking the woodwork from range – while Linkoping shot-stopper Hilda Carlen dealt well with the several dangerous crosses from the wings.
The game burst into life in a crazy five-minute spell, which saw a penalty claim denied at one end and one awarded at the other – with a sending-off to boot!
The visitors felt they should have been awarded a spot-kick when Lina Hurtig went to ground, as Steph Houghton slid in – but the referee waved away the appeals with replays suggesting contact was minimal.
City then raced on the attack and were awarded a free-kick far out on the flank, earning Lantz a caution.
From the resulting set-piece, a penalty was awarded as Ross' attempt to convert from close range were thwarted by the arms of Lantz. The defender received her matching orders and more importantly, City were quite literally ‘handed’ the chance to break the deadlock.
Parris gratefully obliged, smashing into the top corner emphatically.
It was no more than the hosts deserved and the Blues could – and possibly should – have doubled the lead a minute later, as Parris sprinted clear but fired straight at the on-rushing Carlen.
Cushing’s side continued to control the game, after the break. Mel Lawley’s clipped attempt sailed over the bar before the Blues doubled the advantage on 55 minutes.
Lawley floated in the perfect cross for Ross to connect. The Scotland international headed a looping effort over Carlen and it bounced over the line and into the back of the net.
Houghton then curled a free-kick over, before Stanway struck the crossbar with a stunning volley and Claire Emslie scooped over at the backpost.
The visitors almost snatched an away goal as Filippa Angeldal drilled just wide of Ellie Roebuck’s far post – but that would be the closest Linkoping came to finding the net.
There was further cause for celebration for City as Tessel Middag made her long-awaited return from injury, coming off the bench late on – and the Dutch international ended the game on the winning side, as the Blues cruised to victory.
How we lined up...
Cushing made two changes to the side that fell to defeat in the Continental Tyres Cup Final a week ago, as Lawley and Ross replaced the suspended Izzy Christiansen and Nadia Nadim.
Goalkeeper Roebuck was shielded by a backline of Demi Stokes, Jen Beattie, captain Houghton and Abbie McManus. Walsh protected the back four, behind Stanway and Scott, while Lawley and Parris operated on the wings. Ross led the line upfront.
City face Sunderland away in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday 25 March at 2pm, before travelling to Sweden for the Champions League last eight second leg encounter on Wednesday 28 March (6pm CET).
The Blues’ next home game welcomes Reading to the Academy Stadium on Sunday 1 April (2pm). Tickets are on sale via tickets.mancity.com or at the Etihad Stadium Ticket Office.