Doncaster Rovers Belles produced a spirited display but ultimately came up short against star-studded Manchester City in the FA WSL Continental Cup.
England quintet Karen Bardsley, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Toni Duggan all started for City and were welcomed onto the pitch by a guard of honour in tribute to their recent World Cup exploits.
The niceties stopped there, however, as Belles made life awkward for their illustrious opposition with a resolute first half display.
However, City’s class told in the end as second half goals from Isobel Christiansen, Nikita Parris and Duggan settled a contest watched by 1,274 at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Belles might have been on the back foot for the majority of the first half but they defended well as a team and also offered a threat on the counter, mainly via Sue Smith on the left.
Christiansen missed City’s best chance early on after she was picked out by the lively Duggan, while Parris should have hit the target after a poor clearance from Belles goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs.
Jennifer Beattie headed just wide from a corner, while Hobbs kept out Houghton’s long range free kick in unconventional fashion.
At the other end Bethany England kept Bardsley honest after getting on the end of a teasing Smith cross.
The pattern of the game continued into the second period but, sadly, Belles’ disciplined defending did not as the visitors went ahead four minutes after the re-start, an unmarked Christiansen volleying home Demi Stokes’ cross.
City’s quality was starting to tell and they made their good possession count in style on 68 minutes when they sliced open Belles’ defence, leaving Parris with a simple tap-in.
Duggan rounded off the win, prodding home after Parris’ effort was blocked.
Belles: Hobbs, Cunningham, Little, Roberts, Cresswell, Barker (Roberts 64), Lipka (Tierney 74), Lorton-Radburn (Thomas 87), England, Smith, Sweetman-Kirk. Subs not used: Stamp, Johnson, Dale, Knight.
Man City: Bardsley, Bronze (McManus 84), Stokes, Radtke, Houghton (Lipman 84), Beattit, Scott (Johnston 74), Christiansen, Duggan, Parris, Corboz. Subs not used: Brooks, Brougham.