They now need to perform a footballing miracle and win by at least two goals against French giants Paris Saint Germain, following a 2-0 loss at the Excelsior Stadium. But Glasgow City won’t give up on their Champions League dream just yet.
Goals from Anissa Lahmari and the superb Kheira Hamraoui secured a commanding first leg lead for the Parisians, who controlled the game from start to finish.
City set up to stay compact throughout, trying to nullify their opponent’s undoubted attacking threat.
An attacking threat which included Marie-Laure Delie, who has scored goals by the barrel load since joining the team in 2013.
But, with Hamraoui producing a memorable, imperious midfield performance, PSG controlled possession with relative comfort.
Visiting right back Kenza Dali was a constant threat and she burst inside to fire at City goalkeeper Lee Alexander, who held the effort well.
Kosovare Asllani saw her stinging drive saved by Alexander, as City subconsciously started to defend deeper.
The extremely vocal 30-strong away support began to sing La Marseillaise and their team continued to battle a resolute home rearguard.
In the 18th minute, the French broke the deadlock. Laure Boulleau reached the by-line and cut the ball back perfectly for Lahmari to calmly guide into the bottom corner.
Two minutes later, the lead was nearly doubled. Dali raced down the right wing and delivered a low, curling cross which was volleyed across goal by Delie. Alexander was on her toes to stretch and acrobatically tip the ball around the post.
City were on the backfoot, prompting Cheryl McCulloch to give some passionate encouragement to her teammates.
The hosts refused to submit to the PSG possession game and Fiona Brown tested goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek from 25 yards.
Denise O’Sullivan ran tirelessly to pressure the Parisians’ midfield and defence but was left frustrated by a lack of service.
Hamraoui was a joy to watch in the French midfield, her physicality giving her the time and space to display world class passing throughout.
And, at the end of the half, she sent a beautifully lofted ball from the centre circle onto the toe of goalscorer Lahmari, who had run in from the right, only to be foiled by a crucial tackle inside the box from Nicola Docherty.
The second half began as the first had ended. PSG were quick to set a high tempo and doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute. From a corner kick, the ball was played to Hamraoui on the edge of the box and she stroked the ball into the top left corner.
City will go into the second leg in Paris with hope of overturning the deficit. Had Alexander not produced a sensational save, the tie would have been settled. In the 72nd minute, Asllani raced clear of the home defence and looked certain to score but the goalkeeper positioned herself well and parried the shot away.
Aurelie Kaci was next to be denied when her low drive was blocked by Rhonda Jones, who was a pivotal part of the human wall separating PSG and a third goal.
Hearts were in mouths as the French embarked on a counter attack in injury time and substitute Linda Bresonik’s first time shot was comfortably held by the reliable Alexander.
Denise O’Sullivan, who summed up the never-say-day attitude with her selfless workrate, reflected: “They have some of the best players in the world. They are very good technically and to compete against them is hard. We went into the game, we got a game plan and tried to stick to it but obviously it didn’t work. As I said, we gave 100 percent. We defended very well I thought but, in terms of retaining the ball, we need to do better.”
PSG, who are a professional outfit, showed a superior fitness level during the contest. O’Sullivan remarked: “They are full time, they train probably every day and probably live with each other. We tried our best and that’s all we could do.”
And City are now faced with an unenviable situation, needing to win by two clear goals in Paris next Saturday, of figuring out how to approach the game. She said: “It is a tough one to be honest. Of course, we want to get goals but we don’t want to concede either. I don’t really know, we’ll leave that up to the manager. We go back in training tomorrow so we can prepare for that during the week.”
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