Man City Pass Reading Test
It took a fortuitous late goal from Player of the Match Lucy Bronze to finally break the deadlock – despite Reading’s dogged resistance – and send MANCHESTER CITY through to quarter finals of the FA Cup.
On a cold, wet, miserable afternoon when one or two players looked like they’d rather be somewhere else, Bronze brings a must-win mentality into every game and that’s what makes her an automatic choice on any team sheet.
It’s not that City didn’t have plenty of chances to put this tie to bed much earlier – but a combination of sloppy finishing and brilliant goalkeeping by Mary Earps kept the score even – and the City faithful on the edge of their seats – until the breakthrough came seven minutes from time when – with an uncharacteristic error of misjudgement – Earps allowed Bronze’s lobbed effort from the edge of the box to sneak in under the crossbar.
As we saw last season, Kirsty McGee captains a well-organized side that likes to play football from the back. This year with new additions to the squad – Rachel Furness, Mandy Van Den Berg, Anna Green and Brooke Chaplen – they’ve also added some steel to that organization and spurred on by a noisy vocal presence in the stands the Royals were very competitive in a hard, physical encounter that saw several names go in the book.
Ahead of this game, there was a lot of interest in seeing new signing FIFA Player of the Year Carli Lloyd make her debut in City colours – and the fans weren’t disappointed as the attacking midfielder brought valuable experience to the side and showed great vision with some intelligent passing and movement.
And that acute awareness almost resulted in a goal in the first ten minutes when Lloyd put Georgia Stanway through on goal only for Earps to make a great save from the striker’s fierce shot.
Stanway is now developing into a really confident player and she put in an assured performance as a attacker who can not only deal with close physical marking – but dish it out, too.
And hey! Even Lionel Messi can miss penalties sometimes – but Stanway’s teammates could have done more before the kick to stop the youngster getting into a distracting conversation with the Reading defence.
City’s other debutee Melissa Lawley – bought from Birmingham City – also impressed as a lively, tricky winger who can get around defenders and deliver quality crosses.
In City’s pre-season defeat to top European outfit FFC Frankfurt, the blues lined up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation with the option of Lucy Bronze and Demi Stokes reinforcing the forward line as out-and-out wingers – but for quality sides like Frankfurt this was rather predictable and for most of the game and their experienced defenders Laura Störzel and Kathrin Hendrich were able to keep our wing backs in check.
Lawley offers the team a different option which will be vital now they’re in the latter stages of the Champions League where they are sure to meet more teams like Frankfurt.
On Saturday, City lined up against Reading with a high five looking for a hat full of goals – and to be honest – they could have scored at least four. Round up the usual suspects!
Credit to Reading, though, who will surely represent a difficult test for other teams this year.
Unfortunately for them, on this occasion their robust defending never translated into a potent attacking threat and City’s impressive record of clean sheets continues from last season.
But on a weekend when all their top rivals scored an avalanche of goals the writing’s on the wall that City need to be more ruthless in front of goal.
Man City scored 63 goals in all competitions last year – including 8 in the Champions League which is still ongoing.
From now on that number should at least be the benchmark to aim for – and then some!