Manchester City Women 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies
(After Extra Time)
A record crowd of 4,214 watched Manchester City Women completing a league and cup double courtesy of a Lucy Bronze header in Extra time to clinch the Continental Cup against a stubborn and resolute Birmingham City Ladies side 1-0 at the Academy Stadium.
Pic taken from: Official Man City website
It saw the rare scenario of the City Women playing the final on their home ground and were big favourites to land their second piece of silverware in a week after claiming the Women’s Super League title last weekend against Chelsea. Birmingham though was no strangers to the this particular final having been beaten on their two previous trips, both against Arsenal Ladies.
City boss Nick Cushing had other matters on his mind too, with the impending birth of his third child and so had an one ear out on that news could it be forthcoming. Play was pretty even to begin with Birmingham not giving an inch to their opponents and saw them having the first effort of the game when a shot from outside the area had Marie Hourihan in a bit trouble, but luckily for home side the shot went waywards of the target.
Both teams were scrapping to gain an advantage in the game, but both were cancelling the other one out with their different styles of play. The home side came close to scoring when a strike by Jennifer Beattie saw the Scottish International effort being saved by Birmingham keeper Ann-Katrin Berger to keep the game level. City began to then edge play and created another chance as Nikita Parris saw her shot saved by Berger again as the former PSG goalie was proving to be thorn in the side for the home side.
At the halfway point of the match it saw the teams going into the break relatively happy, with both teams reasonably pleased as City got some attacking play going their way after a tricky opening ten minute of the game, meanwhile Birmingham will have been happy to go into the locker room 0-0 after coming under some fire by the City forwards. Play in the second half was at best attritional between the two teams as produce a tough midfield battle in the middle of the park, with passing going astray from poor miscommunication and a lack of concentration from the two sides as neither could maintain a flow to their game.
City boss Nick Cushing then made a change to his side, with the introduction of Swedish International Kosovare Asllani to the game as she replaced Nikita Parris who had a tough game. With the game having the feel of a ‘sudden death’ scenario to it with less than twenty minutes to play, it saw Asllani weaving some Swedish magic on the edge of the area to see the Striker free but Berger once more was quick to come out and smother the danger from the City player.
City added some further muscle to their midfield at the expense of Jane Ross who came off for Tessel Middag and saw the game really starting to explode into life in the final ten minutes of normal time. Birmingham were buoyed by keeping the newly crowned league champions scoreless for as long as they were doing and saw them beginning to threaten late on with the contest resembling a basketball game with end to end chances for both sides. City tried to launch one more last attack in the additional minutes, but Referee Rebecca Welsh brought an end to proceedings in normal time and saw extra time needed to split the two teams.
Extra time saw the home side getting closer and closer, as Toni Duggan had an early effort as her shot just flew over the bar and then came what proved to be the winning goal. It came from a Duggan corner that saw Berger rushing out to punch it ahead of the City captain Steph Houghton, but was a bit late and saw Lucy Bronze heading into unguarded net to give the Citizens the lead. In the Second half of extra time it saw Tessel Middag almost doubling the lead for the home side after Kosovare Asllani put in a low ball into the Birmingham penalty box and the Dutch Midfielder’s effort came back off the post and scrambled away from danger.
City held onto their slender lead to complete a league and cup double with the Continental Cup heading back up North after their Women’s Super League title winning exploits last weekend. It proved to be a fantastic day all round for the Manchester City coach Nick Cushing, as he witnessed the birth of his third child later on that evening and was a day to remember for the City head coach.
The Citizens now turn their attentions to the Women’s Champions League game on Thursday against Russian side Zvezda Perm 05 in the First Leg of their Round of 32 tie at the Academy Stadium.