Manchester City were denied the chance to play Champions League football this season as they fell short against a dominant Real Madrid. Caroline Weir came back to haunt her former side, slotting home the winner at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.
Real Madrid took full advantage of a home crowd, which cheered them on, and the stands weren’t the only place they dominated. Madrid saw a large part of the ball in the first half in a showdown between two heavyweights of the game. Olga Carmona very nearly got the Spaniards on the scoresheet inside 10 minutes, her volley, which was destined for the top corner, palmed away brilliantly by Ellie Roebuck.
Only moments later though, Caroline Weir, who spent four seasons at City, put Madrid 1-0 up. The Scottish international left City to join Madrid this season and put her former side behind in only her second match at the club with a skilful finish that would have been all too familiar to her former teammates.
Weir was in audacious mood and tried a long-range chip which didn’t find the net this time, though City fans will remember her pulling off a similar trick against Manchester United last season.
Laia Aleixandri almost drew City back level when a corner fell to her, but she couldn’t head past Misa Rodríguez. The home crowd were making a thunderous noise but City were starting to find their rhythm and confidence, especially down the flanks. But they couldn’t create many chances to get back into the game, with a skilful Madrid midfield shutting them out.
Kathellen Sousa let a haphazard City defence off the hook when she failed to capitalise on an unprotected goal at close range and headed over, to the relief of Roebuck. City’s captain Alex Greenwood made an excellent tackle to stop the consistently threatening Naomie Feller from completing a blistering run into the box.
At half-time the City manager, Gareth Taylor, swapped out Vicky Losada and Leila Ouahabi for Laura Coombs and Demi Stokes to try to regain some control of the game. A couple of minutes into the second half Chloe Kelly, England’s Euro 2022 final matchwinner, had to come off injured and was replaced by Hayley Raso.
City were starting to make some great moves and Bunny Shaw came up with City’s best chance. After fending off a defender she unleashed a powerful volley which Rodríguez was wise to and saved well.
Weir made her presence felt again and nearly scored her second when a free-kick zipped straight on to her boot. However Roebuck came to City’s rescue to smother the shot, which was heading into the bottom left corner.
Roebuck continued to keep City in the game, but to no avail as their efforts fell short against a well-organised Real Madrid side who went toe to toe with every blue shirt on the pitch. Hemp’s agonisingly close effort across the face of goal summed up the game, the decisive moment City needed failing to materialise.
Before the game, Taylor said: “We are going to lose one really good team that should be in the group stages, and that will be a real shame.”
This is the fifth time City have been knocked out of Europe by Spanish opposition, and is another lost opportunity to join Chelsea and possibly Arsenal in the current Champions League campaign.
Taylor’s side will need to pick themselves up from what will be a big blow before the 2022-23 Women’s Super League begins next month.