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London City Lionesses 3-1 Sunderland A.F.C Ladies: 2022 off to the perfect start for the Lionesses

It was a welcome return to Princes Park for the London City Lionesses, as they ran out 3-1 winners over Sunderland A.F.C Ladies.

With postponements preventing London City from getting a full 90 minutes under their belt for the best part of a month, the team came into the match hungry to get back to playing again.

With just five minutes on the clock, City had their noses in front, with captain Harley Bennett sending in a pinpoint cross to the feet of Amy Rodgers, who squared to Atlanta Primus, who picked her spot before slotting the ball into the far corner.

The goal very much set the tone for the first half, with Lucy Fitzgerald linking well with Jamie-Lee Napier and Mollie Rouse, just minutes later, to get a shot away from range, which needed an impressive save from the Sunderland keeper to keep out.

Napier then moved from provider to striker, as she got a shot away following a trademark Karin Muya darting run and cross. If it wasn’t for a goal line clearance, it would have been 2-0 before 20 minutes.

Just a few minutes later it was Muya and Napier combining yet again, with the save off her shot falling at Muya’s feet, who calmly found the bottom corner.

A freekick from Rouse just before the half time whistle was inches away from putting City out of sight of the visitors, but it remained 2-0 heading into the break.

The pressure from the first half continued into the second, with Sunderland having no answers to the questions the City attack were posing.

With half an hour to go, the Lionesses once again showed their class, with Alli Murphy-Palisch, making her return to the starting 11 for the first time this season, playing a long ball into the feet of Rodgers.

Rodgers then took her touch to take it away from the keeper, before guiding the ball into the back of the net.

Yet that final goal seemed to spark some life into the visitors, with the City backline suddenly finding themselves under more and more pressure.

Indeed, in the 90th minute, their late resurgence paid off, with Palisch giving away a penalty, which keeper Shae Yanez was unfortunately unable to keep out.

Yet the goal failed to dampen what had been a great start to 2022 at Princes Park.

Speaking after the match, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say on getting back out on the pitch.

“It's good to be back on the pitch and playing again,'' said Phillips, “the girls have been eager and hungry to get our second half of the season kicked off, so it's good to get minutes in their legs and ultimately put in a good performance at home.

“Sometimes we're at our best when we've had a few weeks to focus on just ourselves and really challenge the group. They always rise to the occasion so great to see that come to fruition.”

The game also held special significance for Haley Nolan, coming back onto the pitch for her first minutes of the season.

“Haley is a fantastic player,” remarked Phillips, “she had an unfortunate injury the week before the Liverpool match, and she's been really diligent with her recovery and rehab.

“She’s been maintaining standards through her time off so it's nice to be able to integrate her back in.”

Next up for the Lionesses, it’s back on the road to take on Coventry United.

“We know Coventry will be a challenge,” said Phillips, “it's been an emotional month for them with everything that’s happened around the club, so we know they'll be a tough task.

“They were an incredibly tough team to play against here at home, in that 2-2 draw, so we know we’ll have to be sharp when we go on the road next weekend.”

The next home game for the Lionesses will be against Durham on the 6th of February. Click the link to book your tickets now!

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