Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor declined to blame his side’s exit from the Champions League for a lack of pre-season action after losing qualifying to Real Madrid.
A 1-0 home defeat dealt by Claudia Zornoza’s first-half strike was enough for the newcomers, Real Madrid, following a first-leg 1-1 away draw for City in Spain. They have now been knocked out by the Spanish opposition for the fourth season in a row. Taylor said,
“We didn’t do any games in preseason and that was the situation we were in. Our pre-season preparation wasn’t great and the Olympics probably hurt us more than most teams in terms of the return to training for most of the girls.”
The goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, midfielder Keira Walsh, forward Chloe Kelly and Fifa best player of the year Lucy Bronze are all out of action, while Ellen White and Georgia Stanway have yet to start a game as they shake off knocks.
City struggled to contain Real Madrid and the visiting team should have taken the lead just past the half-hour when Nahikari García slotted in after being played through. She was inexplicably flagged offside. Just shy of half-time they took a deserved lead, though. Lauren Hemp got in the way of Babett Peter’s shot but Zornoza whipped a vicious shot in from the right that took a deflection off Shaw as it flew in.
At half-time Taylor turned to the tried and tested, swapping the recruit Khadija Shaw for the England forward White.
City ramped up the pressure and White went agonizingly close in the 79th minute, stretching to head Hemp’s ball over the outstretched hands of Rodríguez only for Peter to power the ball off the line with City fans in half celebration.
The crowd urged City to push forward for the goal that would take the tie to extra time but for all the pressure they could not find the finish. The early exit is a crushing blow to Taylor’s ambitious team and also means they will enter the Continental League Cup at the group stage.