Match Report

Last-gasp leveller denies City opening day win

Last-gasp leveller denies City opening day win
UEFA Women's Champions League Qualifying
UEFA Women's Champions League Qualifying
Tue 31 Aug
Kenti Robles 

Caroline Weir 
City kicked-off the 2021/22 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Caroline Weir's 47th-minute strike looked to have separated the sides at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano in our season curtain-raiser – a European Round Two first leg clash - but Kenti Robles' injury-time effort salvaged a draw for the hosts in dramatic fashion.

On a balmy night in the Spanish capital, Gareth Taylor’s side – in our first competitive action since May – almost weathered the storm (quite literally) against the European debutants, who were buoyed by a vocal home crowd.

The hosts had missed a penalty and hit the crossbar but made their pressure count in the nick of time with a late rally - a cruel blow to a spirited City side, who fielded three debutants in Vicky Losada, Khadija Shaw and substitute Hayley Raso and welcomed back captain Steph Houghton for the first time since March.


What happened?

Janine Beckie – fresh from her Olympic gold medal success – carved the game’s first chances inside the opening ten minutes, forcing Misa Rodríguez into two smart stops – the first with a floated delivery for Lauren Hemp and the second a looping cross-shot.

Khadija Shaw then almost marked her City debut with a goal but could not connect cleanly to Esme Morgan’s near-post cross.

As lightning struck overhead, Real Madrid were sparked into action, putting pressure on the City defence with a series of corners.

Esther Gonzalez spurned a hatful of chances in quick succession, including a penalty, as the home side began to dominate, growing in confidence.

The Spanish striker had already called Karima Benameur Taieb into action with two smart stops, as well as curling wide, before blazing a spot-kick over the bar, after Shaw was adjudged to have upended Ivana Andres Sanz.

The Real defender sought to take matters into her own hands in the last major action of the half with a well-struck half-volley but again, Benameur was equal to the effort.

Fresh from our half-time teamtalk, City came flying out of the blocks in the second period and broke the deadlock within two minutes of the restart - Weir smashing home from 12 yards after a spell of pinball in the penalty area.

The joy was almost short-lived as Esther headed onto the woodwork almost instantly and then scooped over, having collected an under-hit backpass.

Taieb then denied Nahikari García Pérez on two occasions and Claudia Zornoza Sanchez fired over for the hosts, while substitute Jill Scott - making her first City appearance since her loan move to Everton - also saw a goal disallowed for an alleged foul with twelve minutes to go.

As the clock ticked down, City sought to take the sting out of the game by slowing the tempo but Robles fired into the far corner in the dying seconds to snatch a draw to take to Manchester for the return leg next Wednesday.

The winner will progress to the inaugural group stage.


With Ellie Roebuck sidelined with a calf injury and Karen Bardsley continuing her recovery from a hamstring injury, which ruled her out of this summer's Olympics, Taieb was named in goal, shielded by a backline of Demi Stokes, Alex Greenwood, Houghton and Morgan.

Losada occupied the defensive midfield position, employed behind Weir and Laura Coombs with Hemp and Beckie occupying the wings. Shaw led the line upfront.

Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh had not travelled for the game as a precaution.

CITY XI | Taieb, Morgan, Houghton (C), Greenwood, Stokes, Losada (Scott 72'), Coombs, Weir, Beckie, Hemp (Raso 60'), Shaw (Park 72').

SUBS | Bardsley, Kennedy, Mace.

REAL MADRID XI | Misa, K Robles, Teresa (Moller 83'), Peter, Ivana (C), Kaci, Olga (Zornoza 72'), Esther, Nahikari, Lucia Rodriguez, Athenea.

SUBS | Sofia, Lorena, M Corredera, Rocio, Pichi, Ari, Salas.


Caroline Weir's opener marked the Scotland international's 25th goal in City colours.

Taylor's side stretch our unbeaten run to nine – our last defeat at the hands of European Champions Barcelona in March, which stands as our sole defeat in our last 19 games in all competitions.

Next up...

City kick-off the FA Women's Super League season with a trip to Everton on Saturday 4 September, kick-off 13:30 UK time at Goodison Park. Ticket information can be found here.

Taylor's side then welcome Real Madrid to the Academy Stadium in the Champions League Round Two second leg on Wednesday 8 September (20:00 UK time). Tickets are now on sale - don't miss out!

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