The FA Women’s Cup Final dress rehearsal ended in a stalemate as Manchester City Women were held by Birmingham City Ladies in a thrilling 1-1 draw at the Academy Stadium.
Four days removed from their aggregate defeat in the Semi Finals of the Champions League to Lyon City lined up with somewhat of an experimental side. Ellie Roebuck made her full City debut in goal, with Abbie McManus drafted at left back of a flat back four with Lucy Bronze, Captain Steph Houghton and Jennifer Beattie. In midfield Izzy Christiansen and Kosovare Asllani lined up in the centre ahead of the deep-lying Keira Walsh and Tessel Middag. Up front Carli Lloyd partnered Georgia Stanway giving City a 4-2-2-2 formation.
City almost scored from the kick off as Birmingham conceded possession straight to Lloyd who rounded Ann-Katrin Berger in the Birmingham goal but, from a narrow angle, could only hit the side netting. Lloyd went close again three minutes later as City countered from Ellie Roebuck and Berger was again on hand to save a low effort down to her left.
The visitors first chance came on 12 minutes when Andrine Hegerberg saw her effort from the edge of the penalty deflected wide for a corner. It was from the resulting set piece that Birmingham took the lead as Coral-Jade Haines in-swinging corner found Emily Westwood out-jumped Lucy Bronze at the far post to head home.
Birmingham grew in confidence as they began to frustrate the home side and had a chance to double their lead on 25 minutes but Ellie Brazil was stopped in her tracks by a superb tackle from Jen Beattie.
On 28 minutes a City corner from the right found the head of Lucy Bronze arriving late in the penalty area but she saw her header cleared away by a Abbey-Leigh Stringer header. Five minutes later, a cross from the left by Ellen White was only half cleared by the head of Beattie but Stringer didn’t strike her first time effort cleanly and Roebuck was able to recover the loose ball.
As the sides began to exchange chances the Christiansen’s perseverance was almost rewarded as she chased down a ball back to Berger but couldn’t turn the deflection towards the Birmingham goal. Moments later it was Roebuck who was the keeper called into action as Jess Carter saw her effort deflected wide for a corner.
Four minutes before half time Birmingham went close again as a cross from Kerys Harrop found Brazil at the far post but she headed over. Harrop then went close with an effort of her own on 44 minutes as a low cross by Ellen White along the penalty found her unmarked but the winger drove her effort wide of the City goal. Yet is was the visitors who took a deserved lead into the break.
City started the second half brightly and moments after the restart an early cross from Stanway was flicked on by Lloyd into the path of Christiansen but the ball just evaded her inside the penalty area. Birmingham continued to trouble City from corners as they failed to clear another in-swinging delivery on 49 minutes which saw Meaghan Sargeant see her effort deflected wide after a goal mouth scramble.
Bronze almost found the breakthrough on 55 minutes when she burst into the box pulling her cross along the six yard line to Kosovare Asllani but she was denied by an excellent block on the line before the loose ball ended up in the hands of the grateful Berger. Bronze made no mistake two minutes later as she latched onto Stanway’s through ball before bursting into the penalty area and firing between the leafs of the helpless Birmingham goalkeeper.
City continued to press but it took until the latter stages that they fashioned another clear chance as a slicing cross from McManus found the head of substitute Jane Ross but her header was deflected wide. City went closer still on 85 minutes as Lloyd did superbly to hold off multiple Birmingham defenders before playing in Ross but the Scottish international was denied at the near post by a point blank Berger save.
Berger came to Birmingham’s rescue again in the final minute as she raced to the edge of her area to block a Lloyd half volley from a deep cross from right but it wasn’t enough to earn City three points in a well contest game of football.
Player of the Match: Ellie Brazil (Birmingham City)