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Bristol City 1 Manchester City 2
Manchester City are through to the semi finals of the SSE Women's FA Cup, but only after being given the hardest of battles by a valiant Bristol City side.
In fact, the Vixens' resistance was only broken in the cruellest of fashions late on when a deflected Nikita Parris shot gave the visitors a hard earned victory.
Man City had been in Denmark for the first leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League quarter final tie a few days earlier and they started where they left off, taking the lead after seven minutes albeit with a fortuitous goal. A quickly taken free kick caught the home side out and Lucy Bronze floated a cross into the area where Caitlin Leach rose highest to punch but the ball cannoned back off Vixens captain Hayley Ladd and back into the net.
The Vixens' initial response to the setback was a good one; a corner floated to the far post was met by Millie Turner whose firm downward header brought out an excellent save from Marie Hourihan. The Citizens continued to have the better of possession though with Toni Duggan driving a shot narrowly wide and Georgia Stanway heading a good chance over following a good cross from Parris.
The home side's main threats were coming from the pace of their strikers and a good run from Millie Farrow took her away from her markers before she shot wide under pressure from the covering Bronze. Bristol City continued to dig in and their efforts brought reward in first half injury time.
A corner was half cleared as far as Claire Emslie who tricked her way past Bronze in the area and although her initial shot was blocked, Emslie kept her cool to drill the rebound past Hourihan and inside the far post to level the scores.
Stung by the equaliser, Man City came out for the second half strongly but were finding it hard to get behind the home defence which was well led by the outstanding Ladd. Demi Stokes made a good break forward from full back and her shot was parried by Leach, Jaz Matthews reacting quickest to clear.
Carli Lloyd, who had been largely quiet during the first half, was coming more into the game and she looked certain to put her side back in front when Izzy Christiansen's pass put her clear on goal but Leach pulled off an excellent save to keep her side on terms. The resulting corner picked out Lloyd just beyond the far post where she unleashed a fiercely struck volley which fizzed inches over the bar.
Bristol City attacks were less common after the break as the visitors sought to pin them back but one good run down the left from Emslie ended with a well positioned Houghton cutting out her cross. There was a scare for Man City as a poor clearance was seized on by Farrow but she was crowded out by a combination of Houghton and Abbie McManus before she could take advantage.
Houghton powered a header wide from a corner and the Man City captain had another header inadvertently cleared off the line by team mate Lloyd as her side's frustrations were starting to grow. Bronze had a shot charged down from another corner and Parris poked the rebound wide as the home side continued to hold on.
Another header from Bronze was blocked, this time by Frankie Brown, and then an extraordinary goalmouth scramble ended with the Vixens somehow keeping the ball out. Lloyd's looping header looked destined to cross the line but Jodie Brett bravely headed away under a challenge from Parris, the midfielder then throwing herself headlong to block from Houghton as she slammed the rebound goalwards.
With six minutes remaining, the goal the visitors had craved finally came. Parris received the ball from a throw in and cut along the edge of the area where her left foot shot took a deflection off Matthews and past a wrong footed Leach.
Bristol City needed to throw players forward to try and salvage the game and won a couple of late corners but the Man City defence ensured that no chances were given away and they saw the game out to secure their place in the semi finals.
Caitlin Leach, Frankie Brown, Megan Alexander, Jaz Matthews, Millie Turner, Jodie Brett, Chloe Arthur, Hayley Ladd, Millie Farrow, Georgia Evans, Claire Emslie. Subs: Olivia Fergusson, Lily Agg, Lily Woodham, Katie Jones, Estelle Randall.
Marie Hourihan, Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Tessel Middag, Abbie McManus, Steph Houghton, Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Toni Duggan, Carli Lloyd, Izzy Christiansen. Subs: Jane Ross, Melissa Lawley, Keira Walsh, Kosovare Asllani, Ellie Roberts.
(top) Claire Emslie scores the equaliser for Bristol City
(middle) Jane Ross is challenged by Megan Alexander, with Jaz Matthews looking on
(bottom) Jodie Brett makes a brave headed clearance under pressure from Nikita Parris
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