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Bristol City beaten by Crystal Palace in seven-goal thriller in Women’s Championship opener


Bristol City were edged by Crystal Palace in their FA Women’s Championship opener as the Eagles took the points in a seven-goal thriller at Hayes Lane.

The Robins got their season off to the worst possible start, with Lia Cataldo conceding a penalty almost directly from kick-off that Palace striker Coral Haines calmy slotted above the diving Fran Bentley.

The keeper on loan from Manchester United found herself beaten again less than 15 minutes later as Siobahn Wilson’s deep corner was scrambled into the back of the net with the final touch coming from Charley Clifford.

City found their way back into the contest with Cataldo capitalising on a mistake from Palace keeper Chloe Morgan before finding Melissa Johnson, whose right-footed strike secured the Vixen’s first goal of the season.

But minutes before the half-time whistle Kirsty Barton latched onto an incredible pass from Molly Sharpe and after an impressive first touch rolled the ball past Bentley to restore the Eagle’s two-goal lead.

After a fairly open start to the second half, it was Palace who maintained their momentum with Leanne Cowen crossing from the right into the path of Haines who scored her second of the afternoon.

The Vixen’s once again found a way back into the game from a second disastrous mistake from Morgan, whose clearance landed straight at the feet of substitute Simran Jhamat, who passed into the empty net.

As the game appeared to be fizzling out City found their third goal and a lifeline to the game as Aggie Beever-Jones headed home from a 90th-minute corner, but despite some very intense late pressure, it was ultimately nothing more than a consolation.

Strikers off the mark

Any striker will tell you how important scoring their first goal of the season is for their confidence and luckily for Laura Smith two of her forwards have already managed it.

Although both capitalising from goalkeeper error Mel Johnson and Jhamat found the back of the net in their first league appearance as well as Harrison’s double in the pre-season outing against Lewes FC.

As long as Smith’s side continue to create chances this season, they should have enough firepower to score plenty of goals, even without last season’s hero Ebony Salmon.

Murray shines in a leaky defence

It seems odd to praise a defender whose side conceded four goals, but Satara Murray had a great display in defence, repeatedly outrunning and fending off her Crystal Palace counterparts with ease.

The 28-year-old was born in New York and joined the Robins from Texan side FA Austin Elite but looked as though she had never been away from the English game.

She and the rest of the City defence will be disappointed with conceding as often as they did against Palace but her individual display showed plenty of promise.

Struggling with crosses and tracking runners

One game doesn’t make a season, but City appeared to have issues today when dealing with crosses into the box, with attackers frequently winning the first ball.

Izzy Cook of Bristol City takes on Kirsty Barton of Crystal Palace.

The three goals the Robins conceded from open play came from passes from out wide into the box, with Haines, Barton and Clifford managing to convert.

Whether this means that City must do more to stop crosses coming in or follow the runners better, it will be something that Smith will be looking to fix before their next outing against Lewes.

A team of changes

It’s no secret how much has changed over the off-season at Bristol City with changes both on and off of the pitch, so some slight rustiness and lack of cohesion was to be expected.

Compared to the side that played in the final game of last year’s WSL where City were relegated, there were no players who started both matches and only Abi Harrison and Aimee Palmer having minutes in both.

As the game went on City’s passing became more and more consistent with some good chances being created, only offering hope as to what this side can achieve with more time together.

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