It was a debut to remember for new number nine Rianna Jarrett, who’s penalty in the 60th minute saw London City take home all three points over Liverpool Women, as they ran out 1-0 winners.
Things started rough for London City, as the home side attempted to assert their attacking dominance, but City’s defence held strong, particularly new left back Kenni Thompson.
The Lionesses first chance in the match came just after the 13th minute, as Jarrett’s free kick on the edge of the area sailed just over the crossbar.
From this point on London City really started to grow into the game, with Lily Agg’s header in the 22nd minute just inches away from putting the team in front.
But the best chance of the half fell to Jamie-Lee Napier just after half an hour, when she controlled the ball in the Liverpool box, turned, but dragged her shot just wide of the post.
As the half wore on, Liverpool started to find some rhythm, but Thompson and the rest of the back line defended well to ensure it stayed goalless going into the break. Indeed, Thompson’s performance would see her crowned SETL Player of the Match.
On the performance of Thompson and the rest of the debutants, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say: “We have a lot of new faces and everyone's played such a massive role and everyone's ready when they're called upon.
So that's going to be a theme throughout the season because we have such depth, but I think the beauty of our team is that we feel as though we've been together for a really long time. And that's something that we value.”
The second half was a much cagier affair at first, with Liverpool again looking dangerous, sending in a great deal of crosses. All collected with ease by keeper Shae Yanez.
Yet everything changed on the stroke of an hour when Thompson was brought down in the box by a rash challenge.
The penalty kick was dispatched with ease by Jarrett, who’s shot was simply too powerful and well placed to give Liverpool keeper, Rachael Laws, a chance.
For the next half hour, it was once again the turn of the City backline to shine. A Liverpool corner in the 78th minute played out much the same as many of their other attacks, with the dominance of Yanez seeing many crosses simply plucked out of the air.
But for Phillips, the level of pressure from the home side was to be expected: “Look, it's an incredibly difficult place to come play on the road, let alone the opening match of the season and I just can't commend the players and staff enough for the way that we prepared and the mindset, we had going into this match.
We knew we would have to chip away and find key moments within the game. So, we’re incredibly happy that we were able to come away with the three points.”
The chance of the half, however, fell to substitute Atlanta Primus, who found herself on the end of a blistering City counterattack, but when the ball came to her, she was unable to steer her shot on target.
As the pressure again started to build, captain Harley Bennett was able to marshal her defence and keep the Liverpool attack at bay, culminating in her making a last-ditch block on the edge of the box in the 90th minute.
After six nervous minutes of extra time, the referee finally blew her whistle, giving London City their hard fought three points.
But for debutant Amy Rodgers, the match was one of extra importance, as she faced her old club for the first time: “Obviously it's nice to be back. But we always had one job here and that was to get all three points.
So, it's kind of a case of switching on and doing what you need to do. But no, it's lovely to get my debut and obviously on a pitch I know so well as well, so it's good.”
Next up for London City is Crystal Palace, the first of the season back at Princess Park.
“We’ll take some time to let this one settle in and reflect on it tomorrow and then all eyes will turn to Palace,” said Phillips, “We know it'll be a tough challenge.
There's been a lot of interesting results across the league today and that's just a testament to how much the Women’s Championship has grown in the last year. Every game will be a difficult game. And so, the next one is always the biggest one.”
London City Lionesses: Yanez (GK), Bennett (C), Nunn (Primus 46'), Thompson, Fitzgerald, Napier, Fleming (Fronc 90'), Jarrett (Rossiter 70'), Girasoli, Rodgers (Rouse 70'), Agg
Subs not used: Gray, Muya, Mehmet
London City take on Crystal Palace on Sunday the 5th of September at 14:00. Click here to get your tickets now!