Saturday 10th February
A first for Women’s Football East as FAWSL 1 makes it’s debut. Today’s game on a Saturday afternoon see’s Birmingham City Ladies hosting Chelsea Ladies at the Autotech Stadium in Solihull.
Only new to this platform however as I have covered numerous FAWSL matches via my old Supporting Women’s Football Blog prior to turning all my focus to Women’s Football in the East of England, still I always intended to continue my coverage of the FAWSL just have needed a break with various thing’s going on, have missed it however and looking forwards to today’s match.
The FAWSL switching to the winter season to fall back in line with the rest of the women’s football pyramid. Entering another transitional period with a restructuring of the league new licencing rules and being opened up to new applicants the top tier requiring to be 100% professional come the new season. Huge challenges lay ahead.
The season closing in on the halfway mark, Manchester City Women leading the way 2 unbeaten two points ahead of Chelsea Ladies themselves also unbeaten from 8 played. A win this afternoon will put Emma Hayes side top of the table for a few hours at least with Manchester City taking on 3rd placed Liverpool Ladies on Sunday. Anita Asante the clubs latest signing the England International having had a successful few years playing in Sweden.
Birmingham City Ladies sit in 5th place in the table, Marc Skinner taking over from David Parker in charge of the 1st team. 10 points from the 8 games they’ve played so far winning 3 and drawing one with 4 loses a tough challenge today against Chelsea a win will put Birmingham right behind the top for well placed to push on in the 2nd half of the season. Have German goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger back between the sticks after she was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the season having made a successful recovery.
The Automated Technology Stadium the venue for today’s game a cold and wet February day heavy rain on the way from Norfolk but settling down to a steady drizzle blowing strongly across the pitch cover at the ground behind both goals a wide pitch the mainstand housing the bar and changing room covered too. I’ve missed Birmingham’s burger van quite possibly the best in the FAWSL. But it isn’t quite the same without the ice cream van parked beside the pitch, not that I was craving a cornetto.
Birmingham City Ladies starting XI – Ann-Katrin Berger, Jess Carter, Meaghan Sargeant, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop (C), Sarah Mayling, Hayley Ladd, Charlie Wellings, Marisa Ewers, Emma Follis & Ellen White. Subs – Hannah Hampton, Paige Williams, Abby-Leigh Stringer, Emily Westwood, Maddy Cusack, Lucy Quinn & Freda Ayisi.
Chelsea Ladies starting XI – Hedvig Lindhal, Maria Thorisdottir, Hannah Blundell, Anita Asante, Millie Bright, Ji So-Yun, Katie Chapman (C), Drew Spence, Crystal Dunn, Fran Kirby & Romana Bachmann. Subs – Carly Telford, Gemma Davison, Karen Carney, Maren Mjelde, Jonna Andersson & Erin Cuthbert.
It’s the home side to kick-off the 1st half, Birmingham all in blue with Chelsea lied up opposite in their all white away kit. A couple of balls a launched forwards by Birmingham runners testing the Chelsea back line. Charlie Wellings looking to make progress on the left Maria Thorisdottir defends for Chelsea. The visitors pressing up as a unit early on the ball played across their defence left to right Hannah Blundell sweeping an early cross into the Birmingham box, runners closing in no one can get on the end of it. Emma Follis picks up the ball for Birmingham taking it on attempts the through ball for Ellen White, Millie Bright intercepts and plays it back for goalkeeper Hedvig Lindhal to clear.
Blundell with a strong run down the right getting to the byline her high looping cross lands on the top of the Birmingham crossbar, the assistants flag raised play is stopped for offside. Thorisdottir with the pass left side on for Kirby she powers her way towards the box a vital tackle from Meaghan Sargeant to deny her a shooting opportunity the ball sent behind at a cost however as the defender collides with on rushing goalkeeper, Katrin-Ann Berger. A break in play as Sargeant receives treatment on the pitch.
The corner ball from the left is played in short as Ji So-Yun comes wanting the ball her pass played up towards the top of the area the cross flashed in towards the far post Kerys Harrop, Birmingham’s captain heading the ball out of the area Chelsea retain possession played into Anita Asante 20 yards out she shoots slightly scuffing the effort the ball skipping off the surface on target an outstretched Birmingham leg diverting it away from goal before being cleared. Chelsea have started well.
Birmingham look to bring the ball on through the middle, Sarah Mayling coming forwards Follis gives her a forwards run, she tries to play the ball into her, Millie Bright coming across defends well for Chelsea. More good build up play from Birmingham, White picking up the ball right side comes down the line her pass inside for Mayling she sends it on across the field into Marisa Ewers sprinting down the left wing she picks out Follis at the top of the area left side of goal fires the shot in low, Hedvig Lindhal getting down well inside her six yard box to smother the ball.
Crystal Dunn coming forwards on the left sends her pass on for Fran Kirby breaking in behind the Birmingham defence taking the ball into the area takes the ball past Berger as she dives at her feet in an attempt to get to the ball. Kirby’s progress is halted by a raised flag. Bright defends well again up against Ewers as Aoife Mannion plays the ball out from the back for Birmingham, the visitors counter attacking with purpose, Romana Bachmann is played through taking the ball into the area looks to try and take it past Berger and get a shot away, the goalkeeper doing well diving at her feet ad snatching out a glove to pull the ball safely into her body.
GOAL! Chelsea have pressed Birmingham closing anyone down quickly as the home side have possession Mayling is caught out as Kirby steals in to knock the ball past her run towards the area Dunn alert on the left Kirby sends the ball out to her heading into the box Dunn’s shot blocked Kirby is there to send her shot past Berger into the goal beyond 0-1.
Chelsea are squeezing the pitch defending on the halfway line at times giving Birmingham very little room alot of space to exploit behind if they can pick out their strikers that though isn’t easy their defence given no time on the ball. White attempts to get clear on half-way, is tracked by Asante the defender putting in the tackle to win the ball. Great control from So-Yun as the ball comes ta her quickly her pass putting Kirby in behind the Birmingham defence, Berger coimng to close the attacker down makes a fantastic save at her feet.
White with good footwork in the middle takes the ball on picking out Wellings making a good break down the right wing her cross swung in near post is claimed confidently by Lindhal. Chelsea get the ball up the other end Dunn left side her cross flashed across the six yard box, Bachmann can’t connect far post the ball coming to Blundell just outside the area right side hits a strong shot in low towards goal Berger diving making an excellent save.
Berger the busier of the two goalkeepers saves at the near post as Bachmann linking up with Dunn on the left sends the ball in near post. A rare opportunity for White inside the Chelsea area doing well as she picks up possession in the opposition half left side is closed down by three Chelsea players can’t get the ball in the chance gone Chelsea are quickly on the move the ball worked up field on the left a high ball into the area falling to Drew Spence she blazes her strike over the bar. Chelsea are certainly on top in the opening half hour Spence powerful on the ball winning it central comes in Bachmann ahead of her lays the ball on her shot it driven in towards goal from the edge of the area Berger with another great save diving to her left to deny her a goal.
Dunn breaking with the ball on left comes forwards cuts inside as Buchmann moves out of the way taking a defender with her the U.S international shooting the ball heading near post Berger saving again is keeping Birmingham in the game right now. Opportunities up the other end limited White doing her best to find some space drifts out wide Thorisdottir in to tackle and win the ball. A throw deep on the left nice work between Jess Carter, Mayling and White the pass into Ewers looking to strike the ball from the top of the area looses her footing as Chelsea swarm in to close her down.
Spence win the crossfield ball for captain Katie Chapman on for Blundell breaking up the line her pass into Kirby, Mannion closing her down wins the ball back for Birmingham. Bachmann breaking clear in injury time sees her cross flash wide across the face of goal.
Half-time Birmingham City Ladies 0-1 Chelsea Ladies
A dominant display from Chelsea in the 1st half composed and confident working well as a unit squeezing the pitch everyone working well to close the ball down not affording anytime on the ball for Birmingham. Kirby opening the scoring and had it not been for some excellent stops from goalkeeper Berger, then the visitors might well be going into the changing room at the break with a bigger lead, as it stands at just the one goal Birmingham are far from out of it. Chances at the other end limited however Follis’ shot Lindhal’s only real test.
A change for the home side at half-time Sargeant coming off to be replaced by Paige Williams at left back. It’s Chelsea to get the 2nd half underway. Carter with some early defending to do does well as Spence breaks forwards into the box for Chelsea. The visitors keeping Birmingham pinned back in their own half. Kirby getting free on the left side takes the ball on, cries out in frustration as she see puts to much on her cross into the area with Bachmann and Spence making near and far post runs.
Follis gets forwards with ball closing in on the Chelsea area left side lays the ball back for Hayley Ladd positioned centrally she lays the ball out to Williams running down the wing her cross in deep towards the far post falls to Wellings can’t get enough on the ball to bring it down under control and shot Chelsea in to clear up the pitch. Thorisdottir putting her head on the ball inside the area to clear a Birmingham set-piece played in from the left. A tidy spell for Birmingham White stealing in to win the ball makes a jinking run forwards giving her room for a shot from 20 yards out her effort flashing wide across goal. The danger of having just a single goal lead 1 strike and Birmingham are back level.
Dunn gets away down the left her ball forwards towards Bachmann making a run into the area is just about intercepted by Ewers tracking back for Birmingham. Chelsea maintain their pressing game no one at the back for Birmingham allowed any time on the ball what so ever forcing misplaced passes. Great defending from Harrop for Birmingham inside the box as Chelsea push on down the right Dunn moving the ball between her feet on into Kirby at the top of the box her through ball central aiming for Bachmann the Birmingham captain close to her gets hold of the ball.
Dunn is impressive on the left side for Chelsea getting hold of the ball taking players on flashes a cross long across the six yard box. Dunn fed in again by Chapman plays a diagonal ball forwards into the area Bachmann with the run, Berger getting down claims the ball first. Blundell on the move down the right her pass inside for Kirby 25 yards out lays the ball across to Dunn moving into the area her effort is blocked by Carter.
Williams comes forwards with the ball on the left for Birmingham plays it on for Follis coming across to receive the ball bringing it inside puts it into White standing just inside the area she shoots first time the ball straight at Lindhal the keeper holding onto the ball. Chelsea make their 1st change, Bachmann the player coming off, Erin Cuthbert going on up front. Birmingham are having a few half chances White finding a little wriggle room now at the back threatens to break clear Asante recovers well however making up the ground to put in the blocking tackle as the striker goes to shoot.
Dunn plays the ball into Cuthbert outside the area she is upended giving Chelsea the free-kick in a dangerous position. So-Yun over the ball strikes it hard past the Birmingham wall drags her effort wide of Berger’s goal. Spence gets clear as she moves to the left charging on with the ball squares it into the area a vital cut out by Harrop as Cuthbert was free behind her.
GOAL! Into the final 20 minutes and Chelsea double their advantage pushing players forwards as they attack the ball taken to the byline by Dunn her cross into the area evades everyone somehow comes racing out to the top left corner, Kirby has the sense to get out of the way So-Yun coming onto the ball in a much better position strikes it with a peach of a left foot the ball whistling past Berger into the top corner 0-2.
Emma Hayes makes a change straight after the goal bringing off Spence and sending on bring on Norwegian international, Maren Mjelde. Birmingham come forwards Ladd with support from Follis looking to play a one two Bright reads it well for Chelsea getting in to win the ball. Berger pulls off another outstanding save as Chelsea break with purpose Dunn away on the left rolling the ball into the path of Cuthbert making a central run the goalkeeper getting down to stop the shot.
A change from both sides Wellings coming off for Birmingham is replaced by Lucy Quinn. So-Yun coming off for Chelsea, Karen Carney the visitors final substitution. Bright with a superb long range pass forwards for Cuthbert the young Scottish attacker bringing the ball down well on her chest striking the falling ball towards goal from 20 yards out her shot straight at Berger the keeper with another confident save. Birmingham make their final change Abbey-Leigh Stringer on for Mayling.
Dunn continuing her good work down the left runs clear firing in a cross towards Carney at the near post closed down quickly by Carter and Mannion can’t wriggle free of the pair to get a shot away. Mjelde with a strike from outside the box sees her effort fly wide of the target as the game moves into injury time. Cuthbert has the ball in the back of the net late on the flag up for offside before she has struck the ball however. A late late corner for Birmingham the ball whips in by Williams is headed off the line by Chapman as the final whistle blows and Chelsea keep a clean sheet the 2-0 win taking them to the top of the table.
Full time Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Chelsea Ladies
A great team performance from Chelsea dominant pressing the ball really well putting Birmingham under constant pressure at the back impressive on the ball it was the work they did off that really stood out today. Squeezing play up at times potentially left them exposed if Birmingham could have found a way through their attackers making sure no one settled on the ball. Berger’s saves kept Birmingham in the game and 2nd half all the while it was just a single goal lead the hosts created opportunities, Chelsea needed that 2nd goal. Birmingham despite being under constant pressure at the back did defend really well.
Women’s Football East – Player of the Match
A good display from Chelsea today so naturally today’s Women’s Football East – Player of the Match goes to one of their players a good all round performance, Bright has improved no end since joining Chelsea doing well leading the back line today going forwards with some superb runs and always ready to receive the ball I have chosen Crystal Dunn was outstanding on the left today.
Good to get some FAWSL 1 action in at last the weather might not have been as good as my previous trips to the Automated Technology Stadium but the football was excellent my thanks to Birmingham for their assistance today.