Thursday, 7 June 2012

FAWSL - Birmingham Ladies vs Chelsea Ladies

Birmingham Ladies made it three league wins in a row as they beat Chelsea Ladies 4-2 on Thursday night, their second victory over the Londoners in the space of 5 days after their victorious FA Womens Cup final. Blues raced into a two goal lead in the first 15 minutes of the game, with striker Jodie Taylor and winger Karen Carney putting the hosts into a strong position, but goals from Gemma Bonner and the in-form Helen Lander pulled a resilient Chelsea side level, but Rachel Unitt and Jo Potter ensured the three points would be staying in the Midlands.

The hosts made one change to the team that started the final in Bristol at the weekend, Eni Aluko coming in for Kerys Harrop, whilst Chelsea made three changes, Laura Coombs dropping to the bench and Helen Bleazard and Emma Sherwood missing out all together, to be replaced by Drew Spence, Ashlee Hincks and Kate Longhurst. Any worries of fatigue were banished early on the home side, and they burst out of the traps, opening the scoring on just 6 minutes when Chelsea Weston added another assist to her tally this year, her arcing ball over the top released Taylor, and when she manouvered the ball away from the onrushing Carly Telford, Saturday's player of the match notched her 6th goal of the season by calmly sliding the ball into the vacant net.

Chelsea certainly appeared to be the team who were feeling the effects of 120 minutes in the heat of the final, and they were two down shortly afterwards on 11 minutes. Taylor was again instrumental in the build up, jinking her way past Dani Buet's tackle and finding space before spreading the ball wide to Carney, who then stole the show with a goal of the season contender, cutting inside Claire Rafferty and bending an unstoppable strike into the corner of Telford's goal, nothing the England stopper could do with her compatriot's effort.

The home side were in complete control and full of confidence, but Matt Beard's side came back into the game as the half wore on, with Buet in central midfield pulling the strings and making Chelsea play, and pressure began to build as the visitors forced a number of corners. On 24 minutes one of those corners, taken by Hincks, was headed home by centre half Bonner, who ironically was the player to miss the all important penalty in the final, and this goal spurred Chelsea on, Hincks forcing a smart save from Spencer and Bassett blocking bravely from the follow up, and it was David Parker's team who may have been slightly relieved to hear the half time whistle, although Telford was forced into action just before the break, smartly denying Carney her second of the game.

7 minutes after the break, the visitors had their equaliser, and it came from a familiar source when Kate Longhurst's inswinging cross was stabbed home cleverly by Welsh international Lander, who added to her impressive tally this season. Chelsea tails were not up for long, however, as just a minute later, Blues were back in front. Jo Potter's set pieces had once again been a constant threat to Chelsea, and her in swinging corner was whipped in and Rachel Unitt scored her first Birmingham goal, scrambling the ball home from under the cross bar. As the natural light slowly started to be replaced by the light of the floodlights at the DCS Stadium, both sides continued to look for goals, Rachel Williams and Potter both shooting narrowly over for Blues, whilst Chelsea threatened through Dunia Susi and Lander, but the all important 6th goal of the game came with 8 minutes remaining, when Jo Potter's thunderous free kick flew past Telford and into the bottom corner to make it 4-2 to Blues. The Londoners seemed to run out of steam in the closing stages of the match, and it ended 4-2, moving Blues back to within two points of leaders Arsenal.

Special praise has to go to both sides for putting on another entertaining game only 5 days after the energy sapping cup final, but it shows the quality and strength of the two teams, and for Blues in particular to come away from the week with another 3 points in the league and the FA Womens Cup is a fantastic achievement. Not for the first time this season they have not let their heads drop after conceding goals, and just when it appears that they are in trouble, the heart and determination of the squad shines through, and when you have the attacking threat that Blues possess, it is no suprise that they have the belief that a match is never lost, and that it is always possible to grab a goal.

The front 6 that started the league game vs Chelsea all have a touch of class that can win any game against any side, as Taylor and Carney's goals proved, but after being pegged back, it was the set piece quality of midfielder Potter that proved the difference, her corner was found impossible to deal with by the Chelsea back line, allowing Unitt to regain the lead, and of course her wicked free kick at the end sealed the three points, and to think Rachel Williams and Aluko didn't find the net, Blues have arguably the most potent attack in the league, and this is one of the reasons the side have the belief that on their day they can beat anybody, and this fight and ability will be key in their quest to continue their trophy winning ways in WSL and Continental Cup action this season.

Player of the game: Jo Potter

Blues: Spencer, Weston, Bassett (c), Westwood, Unitt (Harrop 57), Aluko (Christiansen 73), Moore, Potter, Carney, Taylor (Ballard 84), Williams

Subs not used: Hourihan, Torkildsen

Chelsea: Telford (c), Fay (Gwilliam 82), Bonner, Ingle, Rafferty, Susi, Buet, Spence, Hincks (Lappin 66), Lander, Longhurst

Subs not used: Quantrill, Perry, William, Coombs

Attendance: 756

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