As the Danes trooped off the pitch in Copenhagen just two weeks ago it’s fair to say that there would still have been a large sense of optimism that this tie could be turned around. Despite the 0-2 1st leg reverse the Danes are a team full to the brim with international experience characterized by a core identity of home grown players.
It was a catastrophic error by Brøndby goalkeeper Katrine Abel that had brought a more convincing scoreline to what was a well earned and deserved win for the Glasgow side at the Brondby Stadium. But even the experienced heads in the Scottish camp knew that anything could happen in the second leg on what would be a tense night in Glasgow.
So, as it was, a place in the last 8 of the UEFA Womens Champions League awaited the winners of this Thursday night clash. It turned out to be eventful night to say the least. Scottish International goalkeeper Lee Alexander had the game of her life in the Glasgow City goal.
Glasgow City vs Brøndby IF Women
UEFA Womens Champions League
Thursday 31st October 2019
Petershill Park, Glasgow
Petershill Park has hosted football for many years; just not football of a Champions League variety. Indeed if you had mentioned to many of the flat capped Petershill regulars way back in the 1950’s that the locality would in the future host elite womens European football they would have thought you were mad.
Since 1935 the original Petershill ground was a venue for Scottish Junior football seeing a huge amount of action during the heyday of Junior football – especially the post war years.
However in 2005 a decision was made to create a new accessible sports venue; one that would be more open, socially accessible and friendlier to the many families who live in this inner city area of northern Glasgow.
After some years of planning in 2007 a new Petershill Park was opened. Sitting only yards far from the former Petershill ground it is now a multi sports venue that includes a purpose built dance studio, a subscription based gym as well as the 3G pitch which Glasgow City call home.
It has not always been home for City however, at least for European football.
Pitch technicalities (by way of UEFA standards) had for a while dictated that Glasgow City would have to play its home matches elsewhere. As a result matches were played at the Excelsior Stadium in nearby Airdrie with domestic SWPL fixtures continuing in Glasgow.
It was in Airdrie that the Glasgow club played its Champions League ties against PSG and Chelsea. European football only resumed at Petershill with the visit of Kazakhstan Champions BIIK-Kazygurt in 2017.
How did Glasgow City get here you may ask? Well, for a club that was only formed as recently as 1998 the journey to the Champions League last 16 is not quite as unusual as has been portrayed. Thanks to continuous title wins in Scotland the club have a rich tradition in European football while several of the squad are full internationals some of which being the owners of nearly 100 caps for the Scottish national team. Moreover, on four previous occasions the Glasgow side have found themselves at the same juncture in the competition. Only top sides like Barcelona, Turbine Potsdam and Arsenal have put paid to hopes of a quarter-final place.
City in the Champions League
2018-19: Last 16 (FC Barcelona)
2017-18: Last 32 (BIIK Kazygurt)
2016-17: Last 32 (Eskilstuna United)
2015-15: Last 32 (Chelsea FC)
2014-15: Last 8 (PSG)
2013-14: Last 16 (Arsenal FC)
So its clear Glasgow City are a very experienced team with player and coaching resources far in advance or equal to that of many other similarly sized teams in Europe.
More so, the quarters finals have been reached previously. The 2014-15 win over FC Zurich Frauen led to a QF clash against Paris St Germain, a tie that was eventually lost by a 0-7 scoreline over two testing legs.
The sense of competition that the likes of Glasgow City face in the Champions League has however moved on a great deal since that sole QF appearance in 2015.
Once a competition heavily dominated by German, English and Swedish clubs it is now the French teams of Lyon and PSG who dominate alongside German clubs such as VFL Wolfsburg. Meanwhile, incoming major players from Spain namely Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have added a new angle to the competition thanks to the ability these brands have to attract foreign players from South America.
Petershill is then, thanks to its intimacy and inner city feel, quite a contrast to the far more modern Brondby Stadium where the 1st leg was played. Not that this would be an issue for the Danes. The visiting coach Per Neilsen stating in the days ahead of the clash that such small humble surrounds were what many of his players were used to playing weekly in the Danish Elitedivisionen.
Multi-domestic title winners just like Glasgow City, the current Brøndby side contains four notable Danish internationals. The most capped of these is Nanna Christiansen who has amassed over 100 caps in an international career than goes back ten years. This season however the club rota has been weakened thanks to the loss of the experienced Stine Larsen who departed Brondby for French football.
It was a cold night in northern Glasgow with the rather curious choice of Swedish match officials leading the two teams out to conditions than had seldom got above 10c all day. Despite the presence of live TV cameras the crowds had emerged to see the home side. By kick off almost 800 had congregated in hope but also in expectation to see the Scottish side reach the later stages of the tournament once again.
However, things did not exactly go to plan for the Scottish side in the opening period of the game. Brondby looked more confident and assured on the slippery surface taking every chance they were given to test Scottish international goalkeeper Lee Alexander.
Glasgow City looked nervous and edgy. Normally dependable players like Rachel McLauchlan looked like they had a mistake in them every time Brondby attacked.
But even the saves of Lee Alexander in goal were not enough to stop Nanna Christensen heading the Danes ahead after only 6 minutes. The diminative yet hugely experienced Dane used her positional sense to get free in the box and loop a header past Alexander into the far corner of the net.
The Brondby bench lept to its feet in celebration barking out yells of encouragement to his players.
If Scott Booth, his counterpart on the Glasgow City bench, thought it could not get any worse he was wrong. A series of flowing moves eventually culminated in Frederikke Lindhard wiping out Glasgow City’s first-leg lead by firing into the net.
The Danes in all truth were rampant creating chance after chance and but for several fine stops from Alexander towards the end of the half the game could have already been well out of the reach for the Scots.
Quite simply they were being totally and utterly outplayed by the Danes in midfield.
If Booth’s team have learned anything from previous Champions League knock out ties it is to hang on in the face of adversity.
Half time brought oranges, water and a team talk. Brondby were out long before Glasgow City and the chance to regroup in the dressing room was to be crucial for Scott Booth.
Whatever home coach Booth had said to his players it didn’t work with Brondby IF going for the kill straight from the resumption of play.
Twice the yellow shirted forwards of Brondby were through on goal with the Scottish goalkeeper in front of them only for Alexander to make point blank saves. In one particular incident Rachel McLauchlan did not deal with an onrushing Brindby attacker leaving Alexander to bail out her teammate’s nervy defensive frailties.
Extra time eventually came and suddenly Glasgow City got a foothold in proceedings.
The tall young defender Jenna Clark, who had a commanding and composed night, almost won the tie in extra time when she headed a Leanne Ross cross against the visiting cross bar. Only the quick thinking of Abel in the Brondby goal prevented the rebound from that effort being knocked into the net by Kerr.
Just as hope was in the air of a win for City the experienced Swedish referee Sara Persson blew her whistle for the end of extra time. Petershill Park was now heading for the dreaded penalty shoot out.
Nerves could be felt all around as tension filled the faces of both the young and old in attendance. Families, partners, boyfriends, girlfriends watched on as the shoot-out commenced.
In truth it could only have went two ways given the performance of Alexander during the previous 120 minutes. Either the Scotland goalkeeper would have a complete stinker or the stopper would top off her night by sending her side through to a place in the last eight.
Thankfully it was the latter despite Kirsty Howat and Megan Foley seeing weak penalties saved by the Brondby goalkeeper Katrine Abel. It was left to experienced head Jo Love to put the pink ribbon on the win sending her final penalty high past Abel to secure the win.
One could not help but see the contrast in emotions at the end of this marathon tie. The disconsolate visiting team trudged back to the dressing room with heads down many in tears. Abel in the Brondby goal meanwhile lay prone on her back possibly thinking about how pivotal her error had been just two weeks earlier. Glasgow City’s players meanwhile celebrated the win wildly – players, coaches and club staff leaping upon Jo Love after her penalty won it.
Without the dependable and experienced midfielder Leanne Crichton, Glasgow City were weakened but this second leg could easily have ended in a 5-0 win for the visitors.
The Danes know that they totally blew it on the night after crawling back into it after a disasterous first leg.
Numerous chances were created by Brondby throughout the 120 minutes but they were unable to get the crucial third goal due to poor finishing but also the excellence of Lee Alexander in the City goal.
FT: 0-2 (Agg: 2-2) After ET Glasgow City won a shoot out 3-1
Glasgow City: Alexander, Docherty, Clark, Ross, McLauchlan, Kerr, Howat, Foley, Love, Lauder, Shine. Subs ON: Sinclair, Girasoli
Brondby IF: Abel, Karlsen, Svensson, Pleidrup, Hasbo, Sorensen, Petersson, Henriksen, Lindhart, Christiansen, Kristiansen. Subs ON: Winther, Ringsing, Abilda