Southampton FC Women exit the Vitality Women's FA Cup as a clinical Bristol City triumph at the Robins High Performance Centre.
A slow start and lack of possession in the first half saw Bristol City able to capitalise on their chances, going ahead before the half.
Despite an improved second half showing, the depleted Saints squad were unable to keep out the experienced Robins side, with set pieces proving to be their undoing as Bristol City hit once again to make deficit two.
City were the first to threaten within the minute as Abi Harrison was first to a poor clearance and slid the ball across the box, missing two red shirts lurking in dangerous areas.
With Saints struggling to find their rhythm in the opening ten, Bristol City once again tested the back line, Shania Hayles and Maddi Wilde both attempting balls through the back line aimed at the prolific goalscorer Harrison, only to see Rendell quick off her line.
Megan Wynne and Sophia Pharoah looked to raise the tempo in the attack, as they linked up well to almost fashion the perfect through ball, with City having to recover well to smother.
A sliding tackle from Leeta Rutherford was somewhat dubiously blown up as foul in the eighth minute. Aimee Palmer stepped up to take the dead ball delivery for the home side, forcing Kayla Rendell into her first save of the game, tipping the ball over the bar.
Saints were put in danger by another set piece delivery in the 17th minute, as Megan Wynne pulled back Harrison and became the first player to enter the referee’s book.
The swinging free kick was headed clear by Rutherford, only to be bobbled back into the box, with the eventual shot miss hit at Rendell.
Bristol City made no mistake with their next opportunity, as miscommunication at the back saw the Robins’ current top goalscorer one-on-one with Rendell, slamming home in the 22nd minute.
Ella Pusey was left frustrated in the 28th minute as she twisted and turned around the corner of the City box, being nipped at the ankles by red shirts. The referee waved for an advantage, and when none came, the game was allowed to continue.
It wasn’t long after that Saints had their next chance, through the recently returned Sophia Pharoah. Milly Mott and Megan Wynne worked the ball well down the left-hand side, before delivering into the box. Pharoah took the ball on the knee before smashing the ball on the volley, the City defence doing well to block.
The first half petered out with neither team able to fashion any real goal scoring opportunities, and despite being behind at the break, Saints had grown into the game, causing more issues throughout.
It was once again the Robins who were quicker out of the blocks in the second half, Harrison getting on the end of a looping ball in the 50th minute, but shooting into the side netting.
Rendell was again on the receiving end of a vicious shot just minutes later as Palmer stung the Saints’ number one’s gloves, with a combination Rosie Parnell and debutant Sam Corrie clearing from danger.
Heavy mist descended on the pitch as the game headed past the 60th minute, and Saints almost had their equaliser; Ella Morris heading over an onrushing Fran Bentley, only to see Powell get back to clear.
However, it was the home side that were able to double the deficit in the 64th minute, as another free-kick went City’s way; Emily Syme stepped up to take, sending her shot spinning into the top corner past Rendell.
Technical Coach Lauren Phillips made her first change of the game shortly after as Georgie Freeland replaced the recently returned Sophia Pharoah.
Despite her own lack of fresh legs, Wynne was making a nuisance of herself in the City half, driving forward and sending a shot just wide of the post as the game headed into the final twenty minutes.
Set pieces were proving to be Saints’ kryptonite at the Robins High Performance Centre, as another delivery towards the box saw Rendell have to pull off a diving save at her far post.
In the driving seat, City began to manage the game, as the small Saints squad threw everything at the game in the closing stages.
Throwing everything at the game, Saints were still unable to break down the experiences Bristol City side, exiting the Vitality Women's FA Cup.