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Cardiff Met Ladies 4 (Sargent 24, Pinder 64, Todd 76,88) NSA Sofia 0
Cardiff Met Ladies got their UEFA Women's Champions League campaign off to the best possible start with a thumping 4-0 victory over NSA Sofia at Cyncoed Stadium.
The Welsh Premier Women's League Champions are hosting their qualifying group this season, meaning that the tournament will start and end in Cardiff, with the Final being played at Cardiff City Stadium next June.
In blazing sunshine in the Welsh capital and with both the men's and women's trophies on display beside the pitch, it was NSA Sofia who settled the quicker of the sides but Cardiff Met almost took the lead in the tenth minute when captain Emily Allen crashed a long range shot against the bar.
Midway through the first half though, the hosts took the lead to delight of the large crowd. Lily Agg slid a neat pass into the path of Ellie Sargent who took a touch before calmly placing her shot past Nikoleta Kaniaka and into the far corner.
The goal was the only strike in a tightly contested and competitive first half although, four minutes before half time, there was a scare for Cardiff Met as Lili Zhekova looked to be through on goal but Sara Moreira was quickly off her line to make a vital challenge and avert the danger.
The two sides exchanged chances at the start of the second half, Agg heading just wide from a Chloe O'Connor corner whilst at the other end, Valentina Gospodinova drove past the post from the edge of the area.
Agg was pulling the strings in midfield for Cardiff Met, well supported by Allen, and a strong run into the area took her past three opponents before Sofia could finally clear.
The strong running Erin Murray up front was also a constant threat to the Bulgarian side and she was directly involved as Cardiff Met doubled their lead. Picking the ball up halfway inside the Sofia half, Murray drove towards goal and into the area, drawing three defenders before cutting the ball across goal for Robyn Pinder to tuck home from six yards.
Sofia had a great chance to pull a goal back barely a minute later as Gospodinova headed wide from Silvia Radoyska's floated cross to the far post. Tija Richardson also made a fine headed clearance from a Velina Koshuleva free kick as the Bulgarian side was forced to press forward.
The heat was also starting to take its toll with Cardiff Met somewhat bizzarely having four different players suffering with cramp at the same time, during break in play.
Far from wilting though, the Welsh side took over matters again and the introduction of Aimee Todd as substitute gave them fresh impetus. The winger almost scored with her first touch as Pinder dinked a cross to the far post but it bounced awkwardly for Todd and she could only direct her header over.
Just three minutes later, after Sargent whipped the ball into the area, the Sofia defence were unable to clear and Todd did well to trick her way past Viktoriya Mitova on the edge of the area before firing a left foot shot past Kaniaka to put her side three ahead.
Agg drove a free kick over the bar and had another effort blocked before Cardiff Met crowned their day with two minutes remaining. Allen threaded a delightful through ball into the path of Todd who finished confidently for her second goal on the day.
Cardiff Met are next in action on Thursday (6pm), again at the Cyncoed Stadium when they take on Spartak Subotica of Serbia, who drew 1-1 with Breidablik in the other group game.
Cardiff Met Ladies: Sara Moreira, Sophie Scherschel, Lois Regan (sub Aimee Todd 70mins), Tija Richardson (sub Rebecca Mathias 78mins), Stephanie Turner, Emily Allen, Ellie Sargent, Lily Agg, Robyn Pinder, Erin Murray, Chloe O'Connor. Subs not used: Yzabelle Taylor, Hannah Bluck, Emma Tustin, Josiane Vasconcelos, Stacey Ayling.
NSA Sofia: Nikoleta Kaniaka, Nelly Atanasova, Monika Razhgeva (sub Kristin Krasteva 68mins), Stanislava Tsekova, Viktoriya Mitova, Yoana Papazova, Valentina Asenova, Silvia Radoyska (sub Lora Petrova 80mins), Valentina Gospodinova, Lili Zhekova (sub Inna Dimova 77mins), Velina Koshuleva. Subs not used: Mariya Keleva, Teya Penkova, Nikoleta Karakoleva, Viktoriya Mihaylova.
(top) Sophie Scherschel gets in a challenge on Silvia Radoyska
(middle) Erin Murray takes on Yoana Papazova
(bottom) Aimee Todd fires in the first of her two goals
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