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Bristol Academy 1 (Fishlock 75)
FC Energiya Voronezh 1 (Conti pen 83)
Bristol Academy made their first ever appearance in European competition and honours were shared as they drew 1-1 with Russian Champions FC Energiya Voronezh at Ashton Gate.
However Academy were left to rue a number of missed chances during the game and the conceding of a late penalty which means they must score in next week's return leg in Russia to stand any chance of progressing to the last sixteen.
Academy fielded a largely inexperienced side at Champions League level and this showed during the opening minutes as Voronezh sought an early goal and it almost came as Pamela Conti thumped a powerful shot from 25 yards which beat Siobhan Chamberlain back came back off the bar.
This only served to settle Academy down and they produced their first good chance three minutes later, a Helen Bleazard corner picking out Grace McCatty at the far post but she headed over.
Voronezh continued to look slick going forward and Chamberlain was forced to make a good save when tipping another long range strike from Conti past the post. Ajara Njoya then made a good run in the area before setting up Veronica Boquete who hooked her shot over the bar.
Back came Academy and they should have taken the lead on 21 minutes. The ball broke for Ann Marie Heatherson to make her way to the goal line and her low cross was dummied by Jessica Fishlock for Bleazard who lifted her shot over the bar with only Veronica Shulga to beat.
The game continued at a frenetic pace and flowed from end to end, but the better chances went the way of Academy. Elena Terekhova fired straight at Chamberlain following a stumble by McCatty, then at the other end Fishlock dispossessed Anna Astapenko near the corner flag before cutting in and drilling a shot wide of the far post. Chamberlain was again called into action a minute later as she tipped over a shot from Elena Danilova but Academy were again to pass up a glorious chance shortly before half time. Fishlock battled her way into the area where her angled shot was parried by Shulga and into the path of Heatherson who blazed the rebound over the bar.
The hectic pace of the game did not last after the interval but it still remained wide open with both teams attacking at every opportunity. Danilova, who had been shackled for much of the first half by the impressive Jaz Matthews, produced the first effort of the half with a shot from the edge of the area which was saved by Chamberlain.
Academy still looked the more likely to break through with the lively Fishlock prominent in her forward role and Bleazard looking threatening on the left. They won a number of corners but the Voronezh defence prevented them from getting in any dangerous efforts on goal.
However another good chance was to come midway through the second half as Loren Dykes sent in a cross from the right which bounced up kindly for Bleazard but her free header went over.
Nadezda Bosikova went close with a free kick which was turned round the post by Chamberlain but the breakthrough Academy craved finally came with fifteen minutes remaining. The goal owed much to the persistence of Lillie Billson who initially challenged Shulga before prodding the ball into path of Fishlock who swept a left foot shot goalwards which, although not the cleanest of strikes, beat the covering Augustine Siliki on the line and found the corner of the net. The Welsh international ran off on a manic celebration and was mobbed by her team mates.
Academy's joy lasted for just eight minutes however, a corner could not be cleared by their defence and a huge scramble ensued, ending with Jemma Rose handling the ball on the line. A penalty was awarded and Rose was dismissed, an unfortunate ending for the young defender who had had a fine game. Conti stepped up and found the corner of the net from the spot to give her side a precious away goal.
It could have been worse for Academy a minute later, as they were reorganising, Boquete powered her way through on goal and into the area where she appeared to be upended by McCatty but the referee did not award a penalty this time, much to the annoyance of the Russian team.
Voronezh sought to press home their one player advantage and it almost came as Boquete received the ball in the area and turned past Corinne Yorston but her shot came back off the underside of the bar.
Academy held out to earn themselves the draw but will feel that the result on the night should have been a better one. The presence of Rose in the back four will be missed in the second leg but they will be confident that they can pierce the Voronezh defence and pick up the result they need next week.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Grace McCatty, Jaz Matthews, Corinne Yorston, Jemma Rose, Michelle Green (sub Katie Daley 63mins), Helen Bleazard (sub Alex Culvin 88mins), Anouk Hoogendijk, Ann Marie Heatherson (sub Lillie Billson 69mins), Jessica Fishlock, Loren Dykes. Subs not used: Alex Windell, Rachel Simkin, Jade Radburn, Ellie Curson.
FC Energiya Voronezh: Veronica Shulga, Anna Astapenko, Augustine Siliki, Anastasia Kostyukova, Olesya Mashina, Yulia Zapotichnaya, Veronica Boquete (sub Marina Saenko 90mins), Pamela Conti, Elena Danilova, Elena Terekhova (sub Nadezda Bosikova 45mins), Ajara Njoya (sub Kristina Chichkala 78mins). Subs not used: Adriana Parente, Erika Prado, Nana Gelbakhiani, Lyudmila Tsukanova.
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