Birmingham Ladies closed to within two points of leaders Arsenal on Sunday with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool Ladies at the DCS Stadium. The holders' 3-3 draw away at Lincoln meant Blues had the opportunity to edge closer to their rivals at the top of the league, and this home win was the perfect tonic, ahead of arguably the biggest week in the club's history.
Liverpool proved a solid test for last year's WSL runners up, with left midfielder Hannah Keryakoplis showing early signs of why she has plenty of people in the game talking about her, and the opening quarter of an hour was a battle of attrition, with the ball mainly being fought for in the middle of the park, but as has happened on numerous occasions, the opening goal changed the whole complexity of the game, and the hosts took control of the game. Chelsea Weston's teasing cross from the right wing caused Reds centre back Nicky Twohig to slice her clearance, and despite the best efforts of keeper Nicola Davies, the ball looped into the net to give Blues the lead on 16 minutes. The remainder of the half was dominated by Birmingham, England winger Carney in especially sparkling form, causing problems on either wing and with her set pieces, and the combination of Rachel Williams and Jodie Taylor up front always worrying the opposition defence, the home side had regular chances to double their lead before the break, Davies making saves from Carney and Kerys Harrop, and a thunderous Jo Potter free kick narrowly missing the target.
The second half was a closer affair, Liverpool determined to come out and show a resilience that was lacking in the FA Womens Cup game earlier in the season where they were beaten 4-0, but 7 minutes after the restart, Blues had their second that the first half display deserved. Substitute Eni Aluko, on for the impressive Izzy Christiansen who put in a good shift out of position in central midfield, needed only 2 minutes to make her mark in the game, crossing for Taylor, and although the striker couldn't get to the first cross, Harrop came in at the back post and steered the ball home. Aluko is becoming sharper and more dangerous with every appearance for the club she began her career with, and it was the England striker who was the provider for Blues' third of the game on 57 minutes, crossing again for Taylor who controlled superbly and slotted the ball past Davies to continue her good run of goalscoring form at the start of this season. The Merseyside outfit did not give in however, and came back determined to reduce the deficit and take some positives back north, and their efforts in the final half hour were rewarded when Kelly Jones headed in a Caroline Charlton cross to reduce the arrears. They could have had more, with Rebecca Spencer in the hosts' goal saving well from Chloe Jones, and new signing Emily Gielnik thumping the bar from 20 yards, but in the end the home side came out with the win that takes them to joint second with Chelsea Ladies on 8 points, but with a game in hand over their FA Womens Cup final opponents, while Liverpool remain on one point.
Blues boss David Parker will be hoping his side will stay injury free this week leading up to their Final at Ashton Gate on May 26th, and the appearance of Jade Moore coming on as substitute in their last two games will be a massive boost for the Midlanders, in what promises to be an exciting, close fought game between two sides who have started their seasons well, and the opportunity to etch their names into their club's history will provide all the incentive to put everything into the game, and at 3pm on Saturday either Laura Bassett or Carly Telford will be lifting the trophy.
Player of the game: Karen Carney
Blues: Spencer, Weston (Moore 64), Bassett (c), Westwood, Unitt, Carney, Christiansen (Aluko 49), Potter (Ballard 69), Harrop, Williams, Taylor
Subs not used: Hourihan, Torkildsen
Liverpool: Davies, V Jones (c), Twohig, Chappell, Evans (Shepherd 55), Harding (Fleming 75), C Jones (Charlton 75), Brusell, Keryakoplis, K Jones, Gielnik
Subs not used: Clansey, S Jones