Away goal means zero, says City's Cushing after Atletico draw

Manchester City's Jill Scott in action with Atletico Madrid's Laia Aleixandri Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Win, draw or lose – there’s no result that will bother Nick Cushing at this stage of the season, the Manchester City boss admitted after his side were held 1-1 by Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League last 16.

Janine Beckie’s first-half goal was not enough for the dominant home side as Veronica Corral levelled the scores late on for Atletico, whose line-up featured former City player Toni Duggan.

After dominating possession throughout, City will feel frustrated that they could not cement their quarter-final spot in the home leg, with Cushing’s side now facing a tough trip to Madrid in two weeks’ time against the team that knocked them out in the last 32 of the competition 13 months ago.

The second leg falls at the end of a tough period for City, who travel to rivals Manchester United and Arsenal in the Continental Cup and Women’s Super League respectively beforehand, but according to the City boss, his team is sure to come out stronger by the end of the month, no matter what their results turn out to be.

“I don’t think we can ever lose really because I know what these players are like,” said Cushing.

“if we end up losing to Manchester United and Arsenal, that’ll be the biggest kick this team needs and we’ll go on to be stronger than we've ever been.

“And if we go on to win the games, we’ll be so mentally strong and will go into every game thinking we can beat anyone. We’ll know we can take on the world.

“As a coach I always look at the positives, because the game is getting so competitive that there’s no guarantee for anyone to always win.

“Manchester United will give us a difficult game on Sunday, so I have told my players that they need to go into that in four days’ time at the same level they just have tonight. That's how we play the game now.

"I would rather have this run of fixtures than a game perceived as easier inbetween."

City squandered multiple opportunities to extend their advantage going into the second-leg on Wednesday evening, with Lionesses Jill Scott and Lauren Hemp causing problems for the Atletico defence in particular on numerous occasions in the second-half.

And while Corral’s 80th-minute equaliser makes things more difficult for City going into the Madrid leg, Cushing played down the importance of the first-leg away goal, saying his team have sufficient time to relieve the pressure.

“I actually think the away goals only really matter if you go ahead by two or three, or if you score in the second leg like Atletico did to us last year,” added Cushing.

“I don’t feel the pressure. 1-0, 2-1, 1-1 – to me it’s the same result going into a second leg.

“We thought Atletico were the best team we played against last season with the ball, but we ended up playing against a team tonight that went very direct with pace upfront.

“That makes it a one-dimensional game for us in stopping the counter-attack which is what we need to make sure we do.”