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• Atlético 1-1 Manchester City (Robles 89, Bonner 16)
• Women’s Champions League first-leg tie ends level
Manchester City could not quite make it over the line, their resistance finally broken a minute from time. With the visitors leading thanks to a Gemma Bonner header, Atlético Madrid scored. The clock showed 89 minutes and it was a deflection that did it, Kenti Robles’s ball looping up over Karen Bardsley, but while there was fortune Atlético had sought its favour. There could be no complaints from City when the hosts finally equalised, and so this Champions League tie will be settled in a fortnight’s time.It will not be easy, City know. “Atlético are easily the best team in Spain,” their coach, Mark Cushing, said afterwards, having witnessed Spain’s league and cup winners first hand. City had held Atlético at bay for so long, Jen Beattie and Bonner heading clear cross after cross. Cushing admitted they had “kept it at 1-0” and lauded a defensive side his team are rarely required to draw upon.
The night had started well for City, with Melissa Lawley forcing the corner from which they scored the opener. Caroline Weir clipped it towards the near post where Bonner leapt above Aurélie Kaci to head her first goal for the club. Atlético, though, worked their way into the game, momentum building as the first half progressed – and even more so when the second half did. City no longer exercised the control Keira Walsh had initially imposed, although there was always a sense of danger when they came forward – even if a couple of times Lawley and Nikita Parris lacked the precision to go with their pace.
For Atlético, what had begun as isolated runs from the Brazilian Ludmila da Silva and Robles’s willingness to head up the right became a more collective enterprise, Amanda Sampedro exhibiting touch and invention. Karen Bardsley punched ahead of Ludmila; Elena Linari struck over; and a lovely exchange sparked by a superb turn from Silvia Meseguer and involving Ludmila, Sampedro and Robles eventually led to Meseguer drawing a sharp save from Bardsley.
Next Linari’s sidefooted volley from a corner was cleared near the line by Tessa Wullaert and then Ludmila hesitated by the penalty spot, the opportunity escaping her with Bonner stepping in. There would be more, Atlético beginning the second half on the front foot and staying there. Ludmila, already lightning, seemed to get even faster. Every time she ran, she left opponents trailing.
It was not just her, even if the inclination was to look her way. Atlético came at City from both sides. And if most of the crosses were cut out, the aerial defending determined, Atlético got closer. Ángela Sosa pulled back for Ludmila, whose header just evaded the far post before Sampedro delivered a wonderful inswinging cross. Ludmila’s header was saved by Bardsley from six yards. The rebound dropped to Jennifer Hermoso but, falling, her shot flew over.
At that point it was overwhelming but City stood strong and the substitute Claire Emslie bent a shot just past the post. Atlético were tiring, the momentum slowing, but still they came. And, with time ticking away, so did the goal.