Although they found their way into promising positions during the afternoon, Manchester City couldn’t quite steal an advantage in their UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final first leg with Olympique Lyonnais. Nevertheless, the holders were denied an away goal, due in no small part to goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. Restored to Nick Cushing’s line-up, the vastly-experienced and popular stopper spoke to us after the game along with defender Jen Beattie, with both full of optimism heading into next weekend’s deciding showdown in Lyon…
SK: It’s ended up being a bit of a cold and windy one today and a stalemate, but were you really fired up to get out there and involved again, especially in a game like this?
KB: Oh yeah, I had a blast today, it was great. You always want to test yourself against the best opposition you can, and Lyon, they’re second to none. Playing against the European champions, it’s hard to not get up for a game like that, so I was honoured to be back on the pitch and I just really enjoyed it.
SK: With you, it goes without saying that you’ll always encourage and help teammates, but with (fellow keeper) Ellie (Roebuck) coming through, how have you been balancing encouraging her with trying to stake your own claim to still be number one?
KB: Yeah, you know, this season’s been kind of like a really weird one for me. I’ve had quite a few strange injuries and Ellie has done a great job stepping in. With goalkeeping, there’s only one position to play, so if someone’s doing well then it wouldn’t really make any sense to keep chopping and changing. From that perspective, I can appreciate the situation that I’m in and the situation that she’s in. All I can do is do whatever’s best for the team, and at the end of the day, if we’re winning and performing well then that’s what it needs to be. As a young keeper, she reminds me of myself a little bit at her age! But she’s done extremely well and I really hope she wins something at the PFA Awards tonight and gets some accolades that she deserves.
SK: For club and country, you’ve obviously seen a hell of a lot of (Eugénie) Le Sommer, (Dzsenifer) Marozsán etc. by now. Do they ever bring something new to the party that surprises you, or is it more like old foes who know all about one another going head-to-head?
KB: I think you can never really predict. To be fair, you always know that they’re going to be dangerous, whatever foot you put them on. You always have to respect their skill and respect their ability. I think we knew they were going to occupy the centre-halves a lot and manipulate the space to get the (number) ten on the ball for second-phase opportunities and things like that. They’re so dangerous that you have to respect them no matter what, but I wouldn’t say anything was surprising; like for the set-pieces we always knew that (Wendie) Renard was going to be a target. So we just need to do the little things well and do what we can to take it to them in the second leg. Overall, I think maybe we could have nicked a goal here or there, or been a bit more offensive at times, but we did what we needed to do.
SK: What is the biggest thing that you take away from today as the main cause for optimism?
KB: We’ve got lots to be optimistic about; we’ve taken the best team in Europe to 0-0 and taking it back to their place. There’s a lot of room for growth as well, but we were calm in possession on the edge of our area, and I think we just need to look to speed the tempo up a little bit and hopefully get some more opportunities going forward, but there’s lots to be optimistic about. This time last year we were down 3-1.
SK: Does it feel like you’ve really come on since last year? Does it feel a wiser team, a better team?
KB: It’s a different team. I would say maybe a bit more of a technical team. We’ve got ability, now it’s about combining the youth with experience and understanding when to do things, and getting the technical and matching that up with what we really want to be able to do.
SK: Coming up against an attacking set of players like that, Ada Hegerberg and Le Sommer, with the likes of Marozsán supporting them, how do you think you acquitted yourselves?
JB: Yeah, I think a clean sheet against a really top side is good going into the second leg. For them not to get an away goal, we’re obviously happy with that. They have so much quality and they had a few chances, but I think we did well to shut up shop, and KB made some great saves as well.
SK: Was there anything they did today that felt different to when you played them previously?
JB: No, we knew they have so much quality, so much fluidity in their play. They’re so creative, one touch, two touch all the time, so they’re a really good side.
SK: Based on what you already knew about them, what you’ve seen today, how are you going to get some joy in the second leg? You won there in the second leg (1-0, but lost 3-2 on aggregate) at this stage last year of course.
JB: I just think we need to take our chances a bit better going into the second leg. A clean sheet’s brilliant, but we need goals, and just that final edge of decision-making in the final third and being able to keep that ball a bit longer. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Going back to your time playing at Montpellier (2013-14), have Lyon gone on another level or are they kind of similar to back then?
JB: Yeah, I think all European teams are improving at the minute and it’s something that clubs are trying to develop. Lyon will just get better and better and you have to expect that.
SK: Finally, what gives you most belief to take away from today?
JB: That no-one’s unbeatable.