UEFA Women’s Champions League Qualifying Group 3

Glasgow City v Anderlecht

Bryden Arena – Oriam Performance Centre, Edinburgh

The first ever UEFA Women’s cup took place during the 2001–02 season.   The trophy was won by German Bundesliga side 1.FFC Frankfurt in a final against the Swedes Umeå IK at the old Waldstadion in Frankfurt.

Although the men’s European Cup has its roots in the 1950’s it was not until a meeting in Paris on 23 May 2000 that the UEFA Executive Committee approved the proposal to introduce a European Women’s Champions club competition.  From its ninth season (2009/10) the tournament was relaunched as the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Scotland’s participants in that first tournament were Ayr United with all of the group games played at Somerset Park in Ayr.  Four teams contested Group 7 and although Ayr United acquitted themselves well it was Toulouse who won the group ahead of Lehenda Chernihiv of Ukraine and Osijek from Croatia.

By the 2002/03 season, some 35 clubs had entered the tournament and Umeå would go on to avenge the previous years’ defeat by beating Fortuna Hjørring of Denmark 4-1 at home and 3-0 in the return.    Scotland’s entrants that year were Kilmarnock FC another Ayrshire side.

As the tournament progressed in size and prestige so Scottish participation on a yearly basis changed hands.  Glasgow City was formed in 1998 and the club still plays their home matches at Petershill Park in the Springburn area of Glasgow.  From 2014 to 2017 they played at the larger Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie, a venue at which the club played Paris St Germain when they reached the last 8 of the tournament. 

For the 2018-19 version of the tournament, Glasgow City will play its qualification games in Edinburgh some 50 miles from Glasgow.  The venue is the Oriam Scotland’s national performance centre for sport which is based at Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton campus in Edinburgh.   Used by the Scottish Football Association and the national football teams, the facility has a FIFA accredited indoor synthetic 3G pitch which is the largest of its type in Europe and can host 500 fans.  Also at the site is a hotel, gyms, first class changing room and conferences suite facilities.

Success in the Champions League tournament continues to evade Scottish sides with Hibernian’s huge 10-1 loss to Bayern Munich giving some indication of the vast differences in class between Scotland’s top sides and the European elite.  Finalists in the tournament have more often than not come from the large Scandinavian and German sides; with the successes of Turbine Potsdam, FFC Frankfurt and Umeå enhancing the image of womens football in Europe as a benchmark for the rest of world.

Women’s football continues to increase in popularity throughout Europe and globally with many of the top players now adventuring to play in the top European leagues.  Umeå IK, early forerunners in the tournament, were able to attract the talents of the Brazilian Marta to Sweden back in 2004 giving some indication of the strength of the Swedish game at that time.

Recent editions of the tournament have seen the female sections of Wolfsburg, Frankfurt, PSG, Barcelona and Lyon dominate the rounds with Lyon, in particular, proving to be an all-powerful force.

Women’s football in England had suffered a blow in 1921 when the FA outlawed the playing of the game on Association members’ pitches on the grounds that the game (as played by women) was distasteful.   However, things have long changed drastically in the modern era.   Arsenal (Champions Cup winners in 2007), Manchester City and Chelsea are likely to taste more success in the future given the finances and outstanding facilities available to English sides.

Moreover, the 2018 English football season sees the launch of a Manchester United ladies side which is sure to be backed by money, sponsors and brand prestige.

In Scotland participation in the game also continues to grow with SWPL1 and SWPL2 being the two divisions at the top of the national game.  On the international front, the Scottish Women’s National team were participants at Euro 2017 in Holland acquitting themselves well in games against the Spanish and Portuguese.

While laden with experience across the pitch (both Jo Love and Leanne Ross between them have over 300 international caps) Glasgow City suffered a 2-1 defeat by Anderlecht in the opening game of Group 3.   Despite playing in its opening Champions League after a first title success in 20 years, Ella Van Kerkhoven had headed Anderlecht in front from a deep cross during the 1st half.

Glasgow City’s captain Leanne Ross then hit the post after a handball by Van Gorp in the box.   The City captain had been slightly hindered by the Slovenian referee who insisted on the ball being placed on the centre of the penalty spot twice. However, the rebound should have been finished by a City player after the penalty hit the post via the goalkeeper.

Star midfielder Van Gorp (an impressive force at the 2017 UEFA European Championship) doubled the Belgians’ lead on 82 minutes when she used her strength to get beyond the home defence to knock the ball past goalkeeper Lee Alexander late on.

Despite Ivanusa scoring a late consolation in the 93rd minute from close range, the crunch and pivotal tie of the group was lost.

The Glasgow side now needs a huge favour from GKS Gornik Leczna of Poland who play Anderlecht late on Friday 10th August.  Only the winner of the group is guaranteed a place in the last 32 stage and the experienced Scottish side may now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout rounds.

FC Martve of Georgia on Friday, who lost 12-0 in their opening game to GKS Gornik Leczna of Poland, now play Glasgow City in the next group game at the same Oriam venue. While that tie may prove to be a formality the Poles may also prove to be tough opponents for Glasgow City.

FT: 1-2

Goals: Van Kerkhoven (0-1), Van Gorp (0-2), Ivanusa (1-2)

Venue: John Bryden Arena Oriam – Scotlands Sports Performance Centre, Edinburgh.

Referee: Tanja Subotic (SVN).
Assistant referees: Helena Buh (SVN) & Franca Overtoom (NED).
Fourth official: Shona Shukrula (NED).