Glasgow City staged yet another remarkable recovery to defeat FC Zurich 4-2 (5-4 agg) and progress into the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time.
Cinzia Zehnder gave the visitors a half-time advantage but City hit back with strikes from Abbi Grant and Leanne Ross (pen) to level the tie in a dramatic second half. The Swiss side appeared to strike a fatal blow with 23 minutes remaining when Fabienne Humm scored, but late goals from Jo Love and Suzanne Lappin gave the never-say-die Glasgow side a memorable and historic win.
City made two enforced changes from the team that lost narrowly in Switzerland. Captain Leanne Ross and Abbi Grant replaced suspended duo, Julie Nelson and Nicky Docherty, in the starting eleven.
City started brightly and made good headway down the flanks. A number of dangerous crosses caused the Swiss side problems but the visitors managed to survive the home side’s early advances. Fiona Brown had the first attempt of the match after two minutes but her effort was straight at the Zurich goalkeeper. Abbi Grant had a similar opportunity a few minutes later but her shot lacked the pace or direction necessary to trouble Seraina Friedli.
The first half was a frustrating affair with play predominantly in the congested midfield area, and it wasn’t helped by a lengthy delay that saw Meriame Terchoun of Zurich stretchered off. The home side created their best chance of the first period after half an hour. A good run and cross from Ross found the head of Morgan Marlborough, who appeared to have done the hard work by out-jumping the goalkeeper, but her header drifted wide.
Zurich demonstrated the potency of their threat in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. City goalkeeper, Alexander, had to be brave to block a shot from Humm and she picked up a knock for her troubles and had to be replaced by Niki Deiter at the interval.
In the ninth minute of stoppage time Zurich grabbed the lead. City failed to clear a corner and when the ball eventually landed at the feet of the grateful Zehnder, she calmly stroked it into the net.
The second half began slowly. City were in need of a spark to give them a boost and after 55 minutes they enjoyed a stroke of good fortune. A long and harmless free-kick into the Zurich box looked to be a straightforward catch for Friedli, but she spilled the ball and Grant made her pay. The 18 year-old intelligently dinked the ball over the head of the stranded Zurich stopper and into the unguarded net.
City were now in the ascendancy and they began to exert sustained pressure on the Zurich goal. They got their chance to level the tie after 64 minutes when Denise O’Sullivan was chopped down inside the penalty area and the referee awarded the spot kick. Leanne Ross lashed the ball home with authority to make it 2-1 on the night.
The joy was short-lived for the Glasgow side however as the Swiss side restored their aggregate advantage two minutes later. City struggled to clear their lines and when the ball was eventually laid into the path of Humm, she calmly directed it home.
City now needed to score two goals or face elimination. The well-drilled Zurich side were proving tough to break down, but an outstanding strike from Love with ten minutes to go restored belief within the home ranks.
City pushed hard for the vital fourth goal that would see them progress into the last eight, and with three minutes to go, and to much acclaim, they got it. A free-kick from Ross found the head of Lappin who out-jumped both defender and goalkeeper to nod the ball into the net and send the sizeable home contingent wild.
Zurich showed real urgency to get back into the tie, but Swiss time was running out and the home side advanced to the next round where another plum tie awaits.
City dug deep tonight and found reserves of energy, spirit, determination and commitment, and it won them a rich reward. This was another major step forward in the continuing rise of Glasgow City FC.
Head coach Eddie Wolecki Black said “Well how do you sum up tonight, it’s impossible. At half time, despite being 1-0 down I said to the team that I thought we would win and I honestly felt that. When Leanne Ross scored the penalty I really thought we would go on to win 3 or 4-1. To lose a second on the night really knocked us but all credit to the players, they worked their socks off to get the win. I am delighted for everyone involved, it is a phenomenal achievement from everyone and this is moment to be enjoyed”
The draw for the Quarter Finals is next Wednesday at UEFA Headquarters in Nyon, 1pm GMT.
Glasgow City are back in action this Sunday for the last game of the season as they face Spartans in the Scottish Cup Final. A win for City would secure the domestic treble for the third straight season. Kick off is 2pm at Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld.