Braces from Pauline Bremer and Caroline Weir, plus Georgia Stanway’s opener, an Aoife Mannion penalty and a Janine Beckie strike put Nick Cushing’s side in firm control in the Round of 32 first leg clash, as the visitors bagged six goals in a rampant and ruthless second half in Switzerland.
The victory marked City's biggest in the competition, bettering the 5-0 win at Lillestrom in the 2017/18 Round of 16.
With the team having savoured the panoramic sights of Lugano earlier in the day, it was fitting that the match itself – yet another historic occasion, as the Swiss side hosted their first Women’s Champions League game – was set against a glorious backdrop, with the Cornaredo Stadium ensconced at the foot of the Brè and Boglia mountains.
GALLERY: Squad take a walk along Lake Lugano
Cushing made three changes to the side that defeated United in Saturday’s first professional Manchester Derby, handing full debuts to summer recruits Laura Coombs and Lee Geum-min, while Bremer also made her first start of the 2019/20 campaign. Tessa Wullaert, Jill Scott and Beckie dropped to the bench.
Buoyed by the weekend’s triumph and eager to expiate last season’s Champions League disappointment, City came flying out of the blocks with Bremer striking the woodwork and Stanway forcing goalkeeper Kelsey Dossey into a fine fingertip save inside the first 20 minutes. Derby heroine Weir also curled just wide.
The pressure finally told before the half-hour mark, as Bremer released Stanway with an inch-perfect through-ball and naturally, the forward applied the ideal finish, smashing powerfully past Dossey for her first of the season.
Weir then struck the woodwork with a sensational 30-yard thunderbolt, which would have bettered her match-winning Derby effort, before the home side levelled completely against the run of play minutes before the break, when Kaela Dickerman found a yard of space and curled into the top corner.
City would not have to wait long to restore our lead. Within a minute of the restart, the away side were handed the chance to net from the spot, with Lee Geum-min upended. Mannion – deadly from the spot during her time at Birmingham – stepped up to convert, sliding the ball into the bottom corner for her first goal in sky blue.
Bremer then announced her introduction into the 2019/20 campaign with a delightfully-taken effort, controlling Steph Houghton’s long-ball before lobbing Dossey from a difficult angle.
Twelve minutes later, she doubled her personal tally – this time displaying excellent footwork to trick her way into a shooting position and firing into the near post.
With seven minutes remaining, it proved third time lucky for Weir, as she bagged her second of the week, plucking the ball from the sky and drilling low past Dossey. In red-hot form, she then sought another but lightning struck a third time for City, as she saw her effort cannon off the woodwork, as it kissed the post.
As our sea of blue and white continued wave after wave of attack, substitute Beckie joined the action, firing a sweetly-struck effort into the near post, before Weir bagged her second of the night with the final kick of the game, dinking over Dossey to cap a remarkable night on both an individual and collective front.
Player of the Match: Pauline Bremer
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Bremer was unfortunate not to have broken the deadlock in the first half – the first of three City attempts off the woodwork – but her persistence paid off with a terrific second half display.
She took both goals with composure and portrayed real quality in her finishes, and chased down everything in search of her hat-trick.
With her injury woes behind her, Bremer is looking sharp and ready when called upon – further evidence of the strength in depth Cushing has at his disposal.
Ruthless and ready
City could not have dreamed of a better result to take into the second leg. The triumph eases the pressure ahead of the home encounter, and builds real momentum to take into our next games.
While the equaliser will have disappointed Cushing and his team, the manager will have been pleased with the sheer ruthlessness his side showcased in the second half – and the quality of the finishing, plus the variety of goalscorers across the pitch.
City have little time to recover from Thursday night’s exertions with a lunchtime trip to Reading on Sunday (12:30pm), as Cushing’s side return to league action.
Cushing’s side are back on home soil on Sunday 22 September, hosting Leicester in the Continental Cup group stage (2pm) before welcoming Lugano to Manchester for the second leg on Wednesday 25 September (7pm BST).