Caroline Weir should expect another Puskas nomination as wondergoal gives Man City win over Man United – Joe Bray

Caroline Weir produced another incredible goal in a Manchester derby to put Manchester City Women’s season back on track in a tense clash with Manchester United.

In 2019, Weir’s thunderbolt proved the winner in the first derby at the Etihad Stadium, and his sublime chip from the edge of the area was the highlight of last season’s home clash behind closed doors.

This season, Weir came off the bench to break the deadlock in sensational fashion, combining the distance of her Etihad goal with the skill of her 2021 chip with a 25-yard effort over the goalkeeper and into the top corner on Sunday.

Both previous strikes saw Weir nominated for the FIFA Puskas award. She can expect a hat-trick of nominations after this moment of sheer quality that was good enough to settle a cagey affair in front of a record Academy Stadium crowd.

With a sell-out crowd announced days before this one, and both sides needing three points to increase their chances of finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League, there was pressure to put on a show. It seems they got the message as both sides looked to start quickly and create openings.

After half-chances for both sides, City had the first golden opportunity and should have been ahead when Lauren Hemp somehow shot over from underneath the bar. She had started the move, fed Jess Park, and continued her run into the six yard box, and only she will know how she managed to clear the bar from so close.

Incredibly this was a first derby at the Academy Stadium with fans – City’s previous two home games were at the Etihad, and then behind closed doors. The way the Blues started, they seemed keen to make up for lost time and give their fans something to cheer after a frustrating season. After Hemp’s effort, she put in a number of dangerous crosses, while Vicky Losada had two efforts from range.

United couldn’t get out of their own half, aside from the occasional set piece, and their forwards were completely isolated – especially with Alessia Russo moved onto the wing. Hemp, meanwhile, had put that miss behind her to go close with two other headers, but remained frustrated in front of goal despite plenty of joy against Ona Batlle. Ellen White was the next to head over, but for all City’s dominance, they just couldn’t find an opener.

It was a pattern of play that continued after the break, with City continuing to dominate, and Jess Park seeing a clever effort come back off the post. Finally, United responded with their first effort in anger just after the hour mark. Ella Toone, quiet until that point, got some space and curled an effort towards the far corner, but Ellie Roebuck was equal to the strike.

Ultimately, for a game that promised so much – as ever – football was the disappointing part of the day. There was no shortage of effort on show, but perhaps just not enough quality for either side to find a winner.

That was, until Weir was introduced after the hour mark.

Tasked with injecting some quality into a contest that was fizzing out into a draw, Weir obliged by striding forward and chipping Mary Earps from 25 yards. The 5317 fans in attendance erupted, and Weir had won another derby almost on her own.

City made a big effort to get this game sold out, resulting in the highest crowd at the Academy Stadium since it opened. It’s a glowing endorsement of women’s football in Manchester and the sight of both sets of fans getting behind their teams will have helped to encourage plenty who may not have come to this ground before to return.

The long queues to get in, or get refreshments that were a common sight throughout the game shows that work needs to be done if crowds like this become a regular occurrence, but the occasion proved City boss Gareth Taylor’s pre-match point that this stadium is their home, rather than the Etihad for big games like this.

With Weir’s moment of world-class magic sending City closer to third, they will feel they now have the momentum to catch United, who will be wondering what they have to do to beat the Blues in the WSL.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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