Heartbreak for Man City Women as Champions League campaign ended early by Real Madrid

It had a lot of similarities to Manchester City Women’s last Champions League match at the Academy Stadium.

It was a delightfully sunny day that would have fooled their opponents into thinking they hadn’t actually left Spain. The Blues had taken the game to the opposition and played well. But all the same they had been eliminated.

However, this time it stung so much more than last season’s loss to Barcelona and fans were in attendance to share in the grief.

The Champions League has been revamped this year to include a group stage for the first time in its history, but sadly City won’t be taking part after falling to defeat to Real Madrid in their second round match.

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Just like in the first leg, in which they had taken the lead and then let it slip in the final minutes, City will come away from the game wondering how they have not won.

The opening stages of the match were cagey, but City soon started to dominate the ball and pile the pressure on the Madrid back-line. Frustratingly, nothing landed their way.

New arrivals Hayley Raso and Bunny Shaw were playing at home for the first time and both were showing how dangerous they can be in attack, with Australian winger Raso proving to be a menace down the right. She had the first chance of the game when the ball landed at her feet at the edge of the box but her shot was deflected and looped out for a goal kick.

Vicky Losada and her team-mates had a tough night. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Vicky Losada and her team-mates had a tough night. (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Another new signing, Vicky Losanda, then had a chance to set Raso through down the right but her ball was short and easily cut out. Minutes later they did manage to link up, with Raso’s cross being cut out just as Lauren Hemp was closing in. The subsequent corner saw captain Steph Houghton rise highest but her glancing header was a whisker wide of the post.

The sizeable crowd at the Academy Stadium was in good voice and seemed to anticipate a goal which City’s dominance deserved, but as time wore on things continued to not quite click.

Hemp and Shaw were both forced to go alone with no support on offer, which meant promising positions were wasted. Then a couple of dangerous crosses just didn’t land for City when they finally did get numbers in the box.

At the half-hour mark, Madrid sent their first warning shot when, out of nowhere, Nahikari Garcia found the back of the net with a guided finish across the goalkeeper. The flag was immediately raised, but it showed Madrid had the quality to do damage and wouldn’t need many chances to make it count – unlike the hosts.

It was a warning not heeded.

City continued to dominate for the remainder of the half but fashioned no clear cut chances and just on the edge of half time they were punished.

Karima Benameur Taieb was called into action for the first time in the City goal as she tapped Kenti Robles’ effort over the bar. From the resulting corner, the ball was eventually crossed to Claudia Zornoza Sanchez, who thumped into the far corner to give Los Blancos the lead.

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Although away goals are no longer in effect in the Champions League, it still gave City a big mountain to climb in the second half.

Ellen White was introduced at the break to spearhead the comeback and City’s first chances of the half fell to her, as they pressed Madrid looking for the leveller.

Hemp got repeated joy down the left and it was her cross which White met with her head, though she couldn’t get much guidance on it and it flashed past the goal. Then the England striker dispossessed Rodriguez after a goal kick and teed up Weir but, as was the unfolding theme of the night, the ball didn’t quite land for her to prod into the empty net.

City were left wondering how they lost the game after dominating for long spells. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

City’s best chance came moments after Madrid had come within a hair of adding a second. Raso and Esme Morgan linked up well down the right before Raso decided to go alone and utilised her quick feet to dance inside the area before lashing a shot that cannoned off the cross bar.

The canny Madrid then began to slow the game down by winning a series of soft free-kicks, frustrating both players and supporters in blue, though Weir and Hemp managed to keep their cool to fashion a chance for White which was hit just wide while under pressure.

The chance galvanised those in attendance and they raised their voices once more to will their team onwards, with countless cries of ‘c’mon City!’

The next golden chance came with 10 minutes remaining as the ball ricocheted around the box following Hemp’s effort. The goalkeeper failed to collect the ball and White stole in to head over her. The fans were already cheering the equaliser before a defender got back to loft it clear in agonising fashion.

Things got even more nail-biting as the seconds ticked towards 90 minutes, White nodded a ball down from a corner only for Coombs to hit it wide with her knee from only a couple of yards out.

Frustrations started to grow further and Hemp was saw yellow for remonstrating with the referee after she was denied a free-kick.

For all of City’s huffing and puffing, they just couldn’t find that elusive goal and were left to rue all their missed chances as the full-time whistle blew.

Last season the Blues were knocked out by the eventual winners in the quarter-finals, but this year their campaign has ended before it even truly began. Now they must dust themselves off and focus all their energies to reclaim the league title.

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