The second semi-final matchup of the 2019 Women’s International Champions Cup was a match filled with quality and entertainment as hosts North Carolina Courage beat Manchester City Women to secure a spot in the final.
The American team, who are the current title holders, were looking to send themselves to the next round and, while the English team had more control on the pitch, their resilience pulled through.
With the first blow of the whistle, players from either side came out flying and the pace of the game was much faster than the previous matchup of the night and the contrasting styles was what made it so intriguing to watch.
Manchester City’s Jill Scott, Janine Beckie and Georgia Stanway were routinely testing Katelyn Rowland early on in the first half and created a lot of issues for the American defence.
Their intimate style of play filled with swift touches and ‘give and go’ sequences lead them to keep control of the majority of the game and out pass the hosts 336 to 182. They were creating and showing their quality from limited movement.
However, it is important to note the Courage were not playing badly. They instead, were focused on using their flair to counter-attack and use power and pace to find a way past City’s Ellie Roebuck in net.
Right-winger Crystal Dunn was the first one to score in the 25th minute but the goal was disallowed. Her teammates Kristen Hamilton and Sam Mewis also had chances that were just unfortunate to not go in.
In the first half alone, the Courage had nine corners and 27 shots but just could not find a way past Nick Cushing’s very strong defensive lineup led by City captain, Steph Houghton and outstanding saves from Ellie Roebuck.
It was the visitors who eventually found the first goal as Stanway gave City a slim 1-0 lead in the 41st-minute and sent them into half-time with the lead.
Coming back into the second half, both players showed they wanted more with the hosts still trying to find an equalizer testing Roebuck again and again, that defence, however, continued to hold strong.
Debinha, who was arguably Courage’s best player throughout the match, herself was creating chance after chance and routinely finding ways to break through a tight Manchester City defence. Her shots, however, despite being quality strikes, just not hitting the back of the net.
So the team adjusted as the clock wound down. Instead of pushing through the strong defence, the American team decided to start forcing corners and working off of set pieces. It was this change in approach that helped them finally get what they were hoping for.
Late into the second half, the game was put on hold due to thunder in the area and everyone, including the players, was evacuated from Sahlen’s Stadium. This one hour delay gave the teams time to recover, especially the frustrated hosts.
Before the weather delay, the Courage had 30 attempts on goal and yet could not find a way through that tight-knit defence lead by Houghton.
As time ticked away, the hosts continued to pressure their opponents and eventually, substitute McKenzie Meehan’s rebound shot thumped into the back of the net. It was all square after 84 minutes.
With the game lasting over three hours, a tired Manchester City put the breaks on and tried to take let this match roll into a penalty shoot as the three minutes of injury time went on.
For the Courage, however, they were on a high and in the end, their resilience proved to be enough.
A quick play out from the back allowed Jessica MacDonald to run into space, beat two Manchester City defenders to the ball and slide the winning goal past Roebuck as the clock read 92:17.
Even though Manchester City dominated the match with 56 per cent possession and 510 passes, Paul Riley’s energetic squad has a chance at reclaiming their title in a repeat of the 2018 WICC final.
Manchester City Women will play against Atletico Madrid Femenino on August 18th at 5:00 p.m. EST for third place while the North Carolina Courage once again meet Olympique Lyonnais Feminin in the final at 7:30 pm. EST in Sahlen’s Stadium, WakeMed Soccer Park, Cary, North Carolina.