written by Graham Semple
Glasgow City set up a final match decider with Zhilstroy-1 after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Northern Irish side, Glentoran Belfast United, in Champions League Qualification Group 4 at the Excelsior Stadium.
A solitary first-half strike from Courtney Whyte was enough to give City a vital three points and make it two wins from two.
With a 48 hour turnover period between matchday 1 and 2, City rotated their squad, making eight changes from the side that comfortably defeated Nove Zamky on Saturday. This significant alteration in personnel gave a number of young players the opportunity to sample the Champions League on a cold and wet evening in Airdrie.
In the early exchanges it was City who attempted to force the issue against their well-drilled Irish opponents. Susan Fairlie, Carla Boyce and Leanne Crichton all had efforts that missed the target in a match where clear-cut chances were at a premium.
Leanne Ross was first to test Ashleigh McKinnon in the Glentoran goal with a free-kick from 25 yards but it was comfortably gathered. Boyce then stung the palms of the Irish goalkeeper before the same player hit another speculative drive from distance that was almost fumbled into the net.
In the latter stages of the first half, City attacked with increased purpose and their patience and persistence was finally rewarded after 41 minutes. A corner from Ross was only half-cleared by the Glentoran defence and the ball landed at the feet of Whyte who steadied herself and guided the ball into the bottom corner to grab the vital opener.
The second half started disappointingly for City with Ross limping off injured and having to be replaced by Denise O’Sullivan. The loss of the captain did not disrupt the flow or pattern of the game however as the Scottish champions continued to dominate, and they soon came close to doubling their advantage. Crichton breached the Glentoran back line and cracked a right-foot shot that was superbly tipped on to the post by McKinnon.
Fairlie, who was a constant threat, was next to try her luck but her shot was tipped round the post by the impressive Glentoran goalkeeper. The Glasgow side camped in their Irish rivals’ half and enjoyed numerous corners, but the second goal continued to elude them.
As the match drew to a close City continued to pepper the Glentoran goal with shots and crosses, but a fine attempt from Fiona Brown was the closest they came to increasing the margin of victory.
Despite just a single goal separating the sides, this was a commanding win for City. Glentoran were restricted to the occasional foray up the park and rarely troubled Nikola Deiter in the Glasgow goal.
The group winners will now be decided on Thursday at 4pm at the Excelsior Stadium when City take on Ukrainian side FC Zhilstroy-1. A berth in the last 32 of the Champions League awaits the victors. Entry to the Glasgow City v FC Zhilstroy-1 match is via cash gate. £5 adults, £2 kids.
Commenting on his side’s win, City Head Coach Eddie Wolecki Black said, “If you had asked me before the match would I have taken 1-0, then the answer is most definitely. The aim tonight was three points, not goal difference and whilst I felt we perhaps should have made it more comfortable given our stats which show 24 attempts on goal, we never looked under any threat to concede. We rotated the squad, we need every single player for our Champions League campaign and we had five players make their starting Champions League debut tonight. Overall, I am very happy after our first two matches and we now look forward to the group decisive match on Thursday.”
Glasgow City: Deiter, McMurchie, Crichton, Jane Boyce (Brown 76), Docherty, Hay (Grant 70), Whyte, Black, Ross (O’Sullivan 50) (c), Fairlie, Nelson
Subs Not Used: Bonnie Farrell (GK), Welsh, McSorley, McCulloch
Glentoran Belfast United: McKinnon, Foy, Downey, Bailie, Vance, Caldwell (c), Macklin, Timoney, Wade, Montgomery (O’Prey 79), Sheridan
Subs Not Used: McCutcheon (GK), Rea, Louise Hilton, Ferguson, Gamble, Baxter
Booked: Annie Timoney (37, Glentoran)
Referee: Barbara Bollenberger (Austria)