Manchester City Women 2 – 0 Birmingham City Ladies
Manchester City Women booked their place in the quarter-finals of the WSL Cup with a comfortable 2-0 home win over Women’s Super League side Birmingham City Ladies at the Academy Stadium on Sunday afternoon, thanks to first-half goals by Nikita Parris and Claire Emslie as the holders topped the group with a game to play.
The home side was given a boost ahead of the clash with Birmingham, as Manchester City boss Nick Cushing put pen to paper on a new three-year deal that sees him staying at the club till at least 2020. It also saw him forced into a defensive change with Demi Stokes ruled out of the game with a knock that she picked up during England duty, and so youngster Esme Morgan came into the lineup for her debut in the Continental Cup.
After a quiet opening quarter of an hour to the game, in which the game was played mostly in the middle of the park and saw both goalkeepers being spectators. In the 18th minute, it finally saw the deadlock being broken thanks to a goal by Nikita Parri as a through-ball by Jane Ross saw the striker taking a slightly heavier touch than she wanted, but it caused hesitation from Birmingham’s Hannah Hampton in goal and that hesitation allowed the England International to lift her shot over the keeper to put the hosts in front.
Jess Carter had the first opportunity for the away side in the 23rd minute of play, as the defender tried a 25-yard shot from distance and had Karen Bardsley in the City goal more than able to deal with it. City’s Jill Scott then worked herself into space, before she unleashed a low drive that had Hampton beaten all ends up, but saw the ball bouncing inches past the far post and almost making it two.
City was looking comfortable at 1-0 without really getting out of first gear and that saw the home side doubling their lead in the 36th minute of play, when a fantastic ball was put into the area by Esme Morgan – and the ball evaded everyone but the incoming Claire Emslie on the back post, and the Scottish International made it 2-0 with a neat finish.
Emslie could have doubled her tally minutes later when a ball came out towards the midfield dynamo, and the Scot’s fiercely struck shot half-volley ended up hitting the side-netting. Birmingham had the last attack of the half with a Charlie Wellings shot on goal, but the forward shot straight at the keeper and have the home side going into the half-time break 2-0 up to the good.
In the second half, it saw a pretty quiet forty-five minutes and didn’t see much in the way of goalmouth action compared to the first half. Birmingham has over the last couple of years been a tough nut to crack for the treble-winners, as the hosts were forced to battle hard in which to beat the Blues in the league earlier in the season.
The Solihull-based side created a couple of half-chances from long range, as firstly Rachel Williams saw her shot going wide before Paige Williams had her effort well saved by Karen Bardsley.
Birmingham’s Emily Westwood then suffered an injury for the visitors, when a strong tackle against her by Claire Emslie forced the defender to be helped off down the tunnel and replaced by Kerys Harrop. Izzy Christiansen went close with a header from a corner, as the former Blues player saw her effort scrambled off the goal line and have the visitors clearing their lines.
Yet again for the away side, it saw both Williams testing the City keeper from distance and saw Birmingham the better side in the final quarter of the game. Jane Ross in what turned out to be her last action of the game, saw the Scottish striker putting her header just wide of the target and was subbed for youngster Ella Toone.
Meanwhile, the visitors went close with a Lucy Quinn shot that brought a good save out of Karen Bardsley and soon after it saw an Emma Follis cross into the box almost being turned in by Hayley Ladd, but her shot was turned around for a corner.
From the resulting corner, it saw Kerys Harrop bundling the ball home for the Blues, but much to their dismay, the referee ruled it out for a foul on the keeper and saw the home side preserving their clean sheet. As the full-time whistle blew, it saw City claiming all three points and see them topping their Continental Cup group with just one game left to play, as they travel to South Yorkshire to face Doncaster Rovers on Wednesday night.