Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 City Women (Corboz 35, Ross 90+5)
Competition: FA Women’s Super League 1
Venue: Damson Park, Solihull (att: 956)
Date: 24 April 2016 (14:00)
After the heartbreak of last weekend’s FA Women’s Cup exit, it was vital for Man City Women to stay true to the adage of daft Noughties sports telly, and show an ounce or two of bouncebackability. City haven’t found things completely easy thus far in the WSL 1 this season – with the Notts County game a prime example of the girls being pushed all the way – but the goals, clean sheets and points have started to rack up. When the league is only 16 games long, every result counts, and with the Blues already looking like title contenders, a win away at Solihull against Birmingham City Ladies last weekend was just what the doctor ordered, after a disappointing semi-final.
With striker Toni Duggan rested as a precaution, City made one change from the line-up at Chelsea, as Scotland midfielder Jennifer Beattie, herself recently returned from injury, gained a place in the Blues’ starting ranks for the first time this season. As has been their wont of late, City made the most of the early minutes in Brum, with the ever-effective Nikita Parris shooting wide from Daphne Corboz’s excellent lay-off. Moments later, Parris had a chance again, as Lucy Bronze – one of three City Women players to be named in the PFA WSL 1 Team of the Year – crossed to the forward, who struck just over.
A young Birmingham side, including teenage debutant Ellie Brazil up front, were not to be deterred by City’s early pressure, and it was Brazil’s tenacity which stopped Abbie McManus from dealing with a speculative Birmingham ball over the top, Charlie Wellings eventually hooking wide. Karen Bardsley then stopped Melissa Lawley’s 25-yard stinger, probably Birmingham’s best chance all game. With City struggling to maintain possession in what was a bitty, disjointed affair, the breakthrough was all the more special and welcome when it eventually arrived. Corboz, the Blues’ industrious American midfielder, finished off a delicious move on 35 minutes, after Demi Stokes passed to Jill Scott – another PFA Team of the Year member – whose audacious back-heel found Parris. The forward hit the post, but Corboz struck on the follow-up, proving to all young wannabe footballers everywhere the importance of anticipation, and getting bodies in the box (please note, MCFC’s men’s senior team).
With Moore going in to the book for a challenge on Parris, the first-half ended City a goal to the good; Birmingham at this point were entitled to feel a little miffed, given their initial pressing and work-rate. It took a while for Beattie to notch up City’s first real chance of the second 45 – an off-target header from a free-kick – but soon the floodgates opened. Skipper Steph Houghton came close with a set-piece of her own, only to be thwarted by Birmingham keeper Sophie Baggaley. With City youngster Georgia Stanway replacing Kosovare Asllani, it was clear that gaffer Nick Cushing knew Birmingham still posed a threat, and that the best form of defence is attack; there was no way City were going to ride this one out.
Unsurprisingly, Parris was again involved in City’s second, crossing superbly for Jane Ross to head home her fourth goal of the season, as injury-time faded. All in all, this was a job well done in Brum for City; the Blues recorded their first win in Solihull on Sunday, after losing and drawing this fixture in 2014 and 2015 respectively. City will now look to maintain their perfect record – and try and reclinch top spot in the table, after Chelsea’s midweek win over Liverpool – with a trip to struggling Sunderland this Friday (catch the game live at 7.15pm on BT Sport 2/BT Sport Extra 1), followed by a clash at home against Doncaster Rovers Belles on Bank Holiday Monday.
That the Blues responded with a result after the Chelsea loss particularly pleased goal-scorer Corboz, who praised her team’s ‘good character’ to mcfc.co.uk. ‘Obviously, it was a very disappointing result at Chelsea so coming here, the most important thing was to get the win regardless of the conditions and that’s what we were able to do.’ It’s also refreshing to see Ross adapting so well to life both in the Super League and in Sky Blue; with the Scotland striker finding the back of the net in each of her last four matches, there is less pressure placed on Duggan’s shoulders. So far, things are looking extremely good for Cushing’s side, and the players will want to take advantage of playing two league games in four days this weekend, and really make a statement about their title aspirations. The loss of the Wembley Dream may still smart, but the way City have played in the WSL this season has been more than encouraging. Victories haven’t come easily, but the skill, grit and talent needed to progress has been there in abundance – and all this without injured PFA Player of The Year, Izzy Christiansen. The future’s looking Blue indeed.
My Player of The Match: Corboz was excellent, but for sheer effort and commitment, it has to be Nikita Parris again. Are you listening, Mark Sampson?
Birmingham City Ladies: Baggaley, Carter, Harrop, Potter, Moore (Allen 46), Lawley, Wellings (Ayisi 46), Peplow (Davies 83), Westwood (c), Mannion, Brazil
Unused subs: Stringer, Edwards, Brown, Johnson
City Women: Bardsley, Stokes, McManus, Houghton, Bronze, Beattie, Corboz, Scott, Asllani (Stanway 79), Parris, Ross
Unused subs: Hourihan, Tynan, Paul, Kemp