by Graham Semple
Glasgow City eased into the last 32 of the Champions League after an excellent 4-0 win over Ukrainian side, WFC Kharkiv, in Qualification Group 4 at the Excelsior stadium this afternoon.
A double from Denise O’Sullivan, a header from Jo Love and a fine solo effort from Fiona Brown ensured top spot for City and progression to the next stage.
As expected, City recalled their established first-team players for this crunch tie with the Ukrainians, however, they had to do without the experienced and influential duo, Leanne Ross and Suzanne Lappin, who were both unavailable for selection due to injury.
With Kharkiv topping the table on goal difference after two games, only a win would suffice for City, and with that in mind, the Glasgow side started with an intensity that proved to be too much for their opponents. They passed and moved exceptionally, flooded players forward at every opportunity and overwhelmed the Ukrainians from the first whistle as they strived to gain an early advantage.
Brown almost secured the perfect start for the Scottish champions after collecting an O’Sullivan pass, but her shot drifted just wide as the motionless Kharkiv goalkeeper looked on anxiously.
The breakthrough came after 10 minutes when a Leanne Crichton strike from the edge of the box was spilled by the Ukrainian keeper into the path of O’Sullivan, who finished from close range.
City did not have to wait long for the second goal. A measured cross from Brown into the box found the head of the unmarked Love who directed the ball into the net. Facing a 2-0 deficit, Kharkiv attempted to change the pattern of the match and pushed further up the park, but they rarely troubled Lee Alexander.
The top seeds went in search of more goals, and after half an hour Grant nudged the ball into the path of Susan Fairlie who raced in on goal and poked her effort wide with the goalkeeper bearing down on her.
Brown and O’Sullivan both had attempts in the latter stages of the first half that required Sanina to be alert, but no more goals were added and City settled for a two goal cushion at the interval.
The second half started scrappily but a sensational piece of individual skill from Brown effectively decided the contest. The highly-talented former Celtic star cut inside, skipped past numerous challenges and rifled the ball into the top corner to make it 3-0.
Six minutes later it was 4-0. A teasing cross from Grant caused uncertainty in the Kharkiv defence and O’Sullivan was able to capitalise and notch her second of the game. For the remainder of the match City continued in pursuit of more goals - with Fairlie coming closest with a header that was cleared off the line - but there was to be no further change in the scoreline.
This was a strong and composed City performance. From the outset they chased and harried their opponents and dominated large chunks of the match. There has been a noticeable difference in class between the top seeds and the rest of the teams in their qualifying section, and there can be no doubt - the most impressive team has qualified.
Glasgow City: Alexander (Bonnie Farrell, 86) McSorley, Love, O’Sullivan, Crichton, Docherty, McCulloch, Black (c) (Nelson, 88), Brown, Grant (Boyce 79), Fairlie
Subs Not Used: Deiter, McMurchie, Hay, Whyte
WFC Kharkiv: Sanina (c), Kotyk, Apollonina, Nesterenko, Mozolska, Masalska, Kostiuchenko, Znaidzionava, Ovdiychuk, Voronina (Malakhova 65), Leromenko (Tykhonova 65)
Subs Not Used: Pidkuiko, Dzenisenka, Pozharska, Svergun, Dzenisenka
Referee: Florence Guillemin (France)