Blues Ladies marched into the Quarter Finals of the Womens FA Cup following an excellent 3-1 victory against WSL Champions Liverpool on Sunday. Goals from the midfield trio of Jade Moore, Jo Potter and Remi Allen ensured progression for the 2012 winners, despite a Natasha Dowie header in the first half.
Blues were without their suspended captain Karen Carney, so Emily Westwood was brought in, with new signings Freda Ayisi and Alex Windell starting on the bench, and Jade Moore taking the captain’s armband. The home side began brightly, forcing a succession of early corners which Allen twice found herself on the end of, once heading just wide and the other creating a chance of Westwood, but her swivelled shot also missed the target. Another Blues set piece was partially cleared by the away side straight to Chelsea Weston, who fired a drilled shot just over the bar from outside the area, but that led to the opening goal.
With Westwood in the team, she was deployed to prevent Liverpool keeper Libby Stout giving the ball to playmaker Fara Williams, and in doing so, Stout was forced to play the ball out to the left, where Blues pressed high and won the ball back well, the ball eventually falling to striker Kirsty Linnett, who produced a sublime flick to free the onrushing Moore. The stand in skipper took her time to steady herself before calmly slotting a left footed effort beyond Stout to give the hosts the lead they had thoroughly deserved, however ten minutes later the Reds were level, Dowie finding space in the box and heading home Corina Schroder’s left wing cross.
This goal settled the visitors down, and they began to play with more control. On the half hour mark, disaster struck for Blues full back Weston, following what looked an innocuous challenge, she went down clutching her knee in obvious agony. Not one to stay down when not hurt, this was a clear sign that serious damage had been done, and after 6-7 minutes treatment, she was stretchered from the pitch to warm applause from all parts of the ground. She was replaced by new signing Windell for her debut, in an unfamiliar full back berth, but the gloom was to be lifted by a stroke of genius two minutes later.
Westwood did well to win a free kick 25 yards from goal, and with no Carney in the side, free kick duties were left to the left foot of Potter, who didn’t disappoint, curling a spectacular strike into the top corner, beyond the despairing dive of Stout to regain the lead for David Parker’s side. New Liverpool signing Asisat Oshoala could have made it 2-2 before the break, but fired wide after dispossessing Kerys Harrop on the edge of the box, and Blues made it to half time ahead.
The second half was a quieter affair, Oshoala, Lawley and Westwood all failing to hit the target in the first twenty minutes of the second period. Liverpool made three substitutions in the space of ten minutes to try and wrestle back control of the game, Katie Zelem, Nicole Rolser and new signing Ingrid Ryland coming on, but still the home side resisted any clear cut chances for the two time WSL winners, allowing them plenty of possession but staying strong when the ball came into the final third, and allowing no time and space for Williams to dictate play. With ten minutes, the hard working Linnett was replaced by fellow debutant Ayisi, and following chances for Bonner and Rolser for the away side, it was Ayisi who won the match winning chance, after being fouled in the area by Murray. It was left to Allen to take the penalty with Carney missing, and she made no mistake by getting the third and sealing Blues’ passage into the Quarter Finals.
A sweet day for Blues Ladies was soured slightly with the news Weston suffered the dreaded ACL injury, which has plagued the women’s game over the last couple of years, and it is expected that the talented full back will miss the remainder of the season. A speedy recovery and full rehabilitation is hoped for so she can come back stronger and better than before. This result not only takes Blues one step closer to an FA Cup Final at Wembley, but also lays down a marker for the upcoming WSL season, a win over the reigning Champions is not to be played down, especially considering the performance in the win.
The draw for the Quarter Finals was made on Monday morning, and is as follows:
NOTTS COUNTY vs ASTON VILLA
MANCHESTER CITY vs BIRMINGHAM CITY
EVERTON or BRISTOL ACADEMY vs CHARLTON ATHLETIC
ARSENAL vs CHELSEA
A tough draw for Blues, but we managed to secure a 2-1 victory in last season’s trip to Manchester, a similar outcome would be much welcomed, and would leave Blues one game from Wembley.
BLUES: Spencer, Weston (Windell 37), Mannion, Harrop, Carter, Moore (c), Allen, Potter, Westwood, Lawley, Linnett (Ayisi 82). SUBS NOT USED: Baggaley, Simpkins, Wellings.
LIVERPOOL: Stout, Easton (Ryland 67), Bonner (c), Murray, Schroder, Williams, Dale (Zelem 63), Oshoala, Longhurst, Smorsgard (Rolser 73), Dowie. SUBS NOT USED: Gibbons, Harris.