City will face Atletico Madrid in the Women's International Champions Cup Third Place Play-Off, after falling to a dramatic 2-1 defeat to the North Carolina Courage.

Nick Cushing's side conceded in injury time at WakeMed Soccer Park, as the tournament hosts produced a late comeback to snatch victory.

Georgia Stanway had opened the scoring in the first half and City had defended for their lives to preserve the lead, with goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck in superb form.

However, City were unable to weather the storm both figuratively and physically, as the Courage netted twice in the final ten minutes, after the game had been delayed for an hour and ten minutes on the 75-minute mark.

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What happened

In the midst of their domestic season, the Courage settled into the game quicker, looking to threaten the City goal with every rapid attack.

The visitors coped well with the pressure, as Roebuck denied Debinha and Lynn Williams on several occasions in the opening 45, while Gemma Bonner was also alert to thwart with last-ditch challenges and clearances off the line.

Crystal Dunn did manage to beat the City shot-stopper but her effort was ruled out for offside.

At the other end, Caroline Weir and Stanway both saw low drives saved, while Jill Scott and new signing Aoife Mannion scooped efforts over the bar.

City grew in confidence and composure, seeking to control possession and remain patient in the build-up. The deadlock arrived four minutes before the break, as Stanway – ever the predator – latched onto Janine Beckie’s inch-perfect through-ball, taking a touch and smashing into the near post. Fittingly, the ball hit the net just as lightning forked behind the stand.

                        City suffer last-gasp heartbreak in WICC

Buoyed by their half-time teamtalk and eager to find a route back into the game, the Courage rallied in the second period, forcing Roebuck into a succession of smart stops.

The 19-year-old produced a superb, flying save to tip Dunn’s powerful effort over the crossbar. Then, despite her position as City’s only available goalkeeper,put her body on the line in a bid to maintain her side’s advantage, thankfully recovering from a knock when she raced out bravely to smother.

As the Courage piled on the pressure, Roebuck produced another superb save – this time, diving low to her right to claw Debinha’s drilled effort past the post.

With just 15 minutes remaining, the game was paused for dangerous weather, as lightning neared the stadium. The game resumed after more than an hour and the Courage picked up where they left off, pressing for a leveller.

They almost found it within five minutes, as Jessica McDonald crashed an effort off the woodwork, but their pressure would eventually pay off with six minutes remaining, as McKenzie Meehan rocketed home inside the area, giving Roebuck no chance.

Both sides sought a late winner to stave off a penalty shoot-out, with Lauren Hemp going closest for City, forcing Katelyn Rowland into a save at her near post.

It would be the Courage who would steal the win though, as McDonald raced through in stoppage time, before slotting past Roebuck and sparking scenes of delirium for those dedicated home supporters who had patiently awaited the restart after the lengthy break.

A useful experience

Not the result Cushing or his team wanted, particularly under those circumstances, but an experience the team can learn from.

City were put under the cosh for much of the game, defending well for the majority with a battling performance..

With the Courage midway through their season, their fitness levels were unsurprisingly higher, and the clash provided a testing work-out in difficult conditions, which will serve to benefit.

The setback of tasting last-minute defeat will only fuel the hunger.

Player of the Match

Showing maturity beyond her years, Roebuck produced a fantastic display and was unfortunate to end up on the losing side.

In addition to her shot-stopping exploits, the young Lioness was assured in possession, remaining cool under pressure and taking on the responsibility of sole City ‘keeper in her stride in the injured Karen Bardsley’s absence.

Having travelled to France to gain valuable major tournament experience with England’s Lionesses as a non-playing member of the World Cup squad, the teenager has blossomed.

                        City suffer last-gasp heartbreak in WICC

How we lined up

Cushing fielded an experienced starting XI, glittered with World Cup stars in Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes, Scott, Keira Walsh, Weir, Stanway and Beckie.

The City boss also handed a debut to defender Mannion, who was employed in the right-back position.

Roebuck took her place between the sticks. The shot-stopper was shielded by a backline of Stokes, Bonner, captain Houghton and Mannion, while Walsh and Scott protected the back four in central midfield.

Weir and Tessa Wullaert occupied more advance positions, sitting behind forward duo Stanway and Beckie.

What’s next

City will face Atletico Madrid in the Third Place Play-Off on Sunday 18 August at 5pm EDT (10pm BST).

The North Carolina Courage will face fellow semi-final victors Lyon in the Final afterwards.

Cushing’s side kick-off the new 2019/20 Super League campaign with a mouth-watering first professional Manchester Derby against Manchester United. Tickets are available and kids go free – don’t miss out!