Nick Cushing’s side clinched victory from the jaws of defeat, netting twice in the final ten minutes to turn the game on its head, after Lauren Hemp’s first half effort had been cancelled out by quickfire Virginia Torrecilla and Angela Sosa goals.
TICKETS: City v United | Kids go free!
The earlier kick-off meant the humidity levels were extremely high at WakeMed Park.
Atletico adapted better in the early exchanges, creating plenty of chances, as Angela Sosa and Elena Linari fired over the bar.
Wednesday’s Player of the Match Ellie Roebuckcontinued her fine form, denying Charlyn Corral twice in quick succession, pushing a powerful effort over the bar and smothering the resulting corner.
City broke the deadlock against the run of play just after the 22-minute mark, as Hemp struck with a goal of her own making.
The youngster, who netted the goal of the game in City’s FA Cup Final triumph at Wembley back in May, nipped in to intercept Linari’s loose ball, racing clear and keeping her cool to curl superbly beyond Sari van Veenendaal.
Atletico continued to press. Ludmila, who scored at the Academy Stadium in September’s European encounter, skewed wide, while Corral and Sosa both fired straight at Roebuck.
As the pressure mounted after the restart, Atletico created chance after chance. Amanda Sampedro and Ludmila forced Roebuck into action, while Corral also went close once again.
The equaliser arrived just before the hour via a set-piece, as Torrecilla headed home an inch-perfect free-kick delivery.
With the momentum, Atletico sought a winner and they netted a second inside three minutes, as Sosa let fly from distance with a swerving wonderstrike, which gave Roebuck no chance.
Ludmila then hit the post with a cross-shot and heeding the warning, City sparked into life.
Captain Steph Houghton thought she’d levelled, converting from close range – only for the flag to rule the goal out for offside.
Ignited, City grew in confidence, passing the ball around well, and Beckie found an equaliser, collecting Keira Walsh’s floated pass, driving forward and slotting sweetly into the near post.
The forward almost bagged a second moments later but was just unable to reach Lee Geum-min’s whipped delivery to the backpost.
As the game looked to be heading to penalties, City struck in added time to snatch the win, as Wullaert latched onto a half-clearance before drilling into the bottom corner and secure a Third Place finish.
We fight 'til the end
While pre-season results hold reduced significance, Cushing will be delighted with the way his side rallied to claw a result.
Once again, the clash took place in tough conditions against a top-level opponent in Atletico, who had of course, knocked City out of the 2018/19 Champions League in the Round of 32 with a 3-1 triumph over two legs.
Although disappointed to have surrendered our half-time lead, City showed spirit, desire and determination to mount a late fightback, finishing the tournament on a positive result and portraying our quality and never-say-die mentality.
Player of the Match
Full of energy and desire, Janine Beckie looked sharp and hungry throughout.
Although she was not always found, the forward – playing in a slightly deeper role – made some intelligent runs and looked to create a chance from each City attack.
She received her reward late on with her goal but she had to remain composed to level the score, as she bore down on goal with the pressure on. She finished with aplomb – hopefully a sign of things to come for the new season.
How we lined up
Cushing opted to make just one change to the side that fell to defeat against tournament hosts the North Carolina Courage, as Hemp replaced Wullaert.
With pre-season complete, the team head off on international duty before returning for final preparations, ahead of the new 2019/20 Super League campaign.
Cushing’s side kick-off with a mouth-watering first professional Manchester Derby against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday 7 September (3pm). Tickets are available and kids go free – don’t miss out!