Gareth Taylor praised the bravery of his players after five second-half goals against Aston Villa saw Manchester City climb to sixth in the Women’s Super League.
Two goals and an assist from the substitute Hayley Raso helped lift the pressure on the under-fire manager after Caroline Weir had opened the scoring and Georgia Stanway added a second in quick succession.
“The brief at half-time was just not letting them off around the final third,” Taylor said, who watched his team dominate play with 83.9% possession in the first half. “I have to take my hat off to the players because I thought they showed real bravery. The subs made a difference and gave us some real energy when Villa were starting to flag at the end.”
Despite their superiority on the ball, City had only three shots on target before half-time with the organised away side set up by their manager, Carla Ward, to absorb pressure. “We came in at half-time happy with the performance, we kept to the game plan,” Ward said.
Villa’s turnaround under Ward has been impressive. By half-time at the Academy Stadium last season they were six goals down on their way to a heaviest ever WSL defeat, with the game ending 7-0.
It has, perhaps, been the lack of goals that has been more worrying than City’s defensive issues given the strength of players available in attack, while the defensive injury crisis provides answers for the failings at the back. So there was some significant relief when the deadlock was broken in the style expected from the home team. A wonderful run and cutback from Lauren Hemp at the byline found Weir and the Scottish forward sent the ball looping into the far corner.
Three minutes later and, with the pressure lifted, City doubled their lead. After a scramble from a corner Stanway clipped the ball backwards around the centre-back Elisha N’Dow and into the net.
Having impressed in the first half the Villa goalkeeper, Hannah Hampton, was at fault for City’s third. Racing out to cut out a corner she played the ball straight to the feet of the City substitute Raso who lashed it back past her into the far corner via a deflection.
Raso was then in action once more, going on a mazy run into the box before cutting the ball across the face of goal for Hemp to power in at the far post. It was Raso again for the fifth. The ball pinged around the Villa box before Hemp smashed a shot off the bar and Raso was on hand to power in the rebound.
“When we went 2-0 down we went to try and put pressure on them so we changed the formation,” Ward said. “I thought we could step on to them a bit and cause them problems and we probably should have kept our shape. It’s probably the worst feeling I’ve had since I’ve been a manager.”