Manchester City saw their Women’s Champions League ambitions dashed by Atletico Madrid for the second time in successive seasons on Wednesday night, with the WSL side falling 3-2 on aggregate to the reigning Spanish champions.
In a last 16 tie that pitted Atletico’s England forward Toni Duggan against her old club, the first leg had ended 1-1 at the Academy Stadium in Manchester earlier this month.
Canada international Janine Beckie put City ahead in the tie in that one, only for Veronica Corral to cancel it out with a late away goal that handed the advantage to Atletico.
When the two teams reconvened in the Spanish capital this week, City knew they had to get on the scoresheet. But an own goal from captain Steph Houghton shortly before half-time increased Atletico’s aggregate lead, while Angela Sosa then made it 2-0 on the night.
Two City goals in the final 25 minutes would have been enough to progress on away goals, but Nick Cushing’s team could only find one. Pauline Bremer’s 88th minute strike ultimately proved to be no more than consolation as the Sky Blues exited the competition.
Just over a year ago, Atletico triumphed 3-1 on aggregate over City in a last 32 tie.
Atletico now advance to the quarter finals, which are to be played in March as European football breaks until the spring. Four-time back-to-back reigning champions Lyon are also through, as are 2019 finalists Barcelona, two-time former winners Wolfsburg, and Bayern Munich.
The remaining three ties, which see Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and Glasgow City all take commanding away goal aggregate leads into the respective second legs, will be settled on Thursday. All three will be hoping to avoid any spooky disasters on Halloween.
For City, the feeling is one of disappointment. Having reached consecutive semi-finals in 2016/17 and 2017/18 in what were the club’s first forays into Champions League football, losing to eventual winners Lyon both times, there is a concern about going backwards at the elite level.
In their previous adventures to the last four, they were fortunate to avoid any really challenging opposition, but now coming up against Atletico two years in a row has so far proven to be an impassable obstacle.
Attention at the Etihad Campus will turn back to domestic football for the remainder of the season. City are the current holders of both of England’s domestic cups and are looking for a first WSL title since 2016, having seen both Chelsea and Arsenal win it in recent seasons.