City finish ‘invincible’ but held by impressive Birmingham
Manchester City wrapped up their WSL season with a hard fought 1-1 Birmingham City side to finish the campaign unbeaten.
The visitors took the lead after five minutes when they were awarded a penalty for a trip on Andrine Hegerberg by Lucy Bronze. Aoife Mannion’s first penalty was ordered to be retaken as the referee hadn’t blown his whistle but the Birmingham defender coolly dispatched the retake sending goalkeeper Karen Bardsley the wrong way.
Birmingham were the better side in the opening stages as they didn’t allow City the space to play and a almost doubled their lead on 17 minutes when Abbey-Leigh Stringer volleyed just over the bar from the edge of the area after Jen Beattie’s headed clearance.
City’s first real sight of goal came on 25 minutes when Kosovare Asllani combined with Jane Ross on the right at the edge of the penalty area; the Swedish international raced onto Ross’s back heel ghosting past Kerys Harrop but hit her shot tamely into the hands Ann-Katrin Berger. They came close again on 29 minutes when Toni Duggan hit a 30 yard effort inches wide of Berger’s right hand post.
City switched to a back three to try and prise Birmingham open but their best chance at the edge of the first half came from Demi Stokes who fired wide at the near post. However they created very little and Birmingham were more than deserving in their first half lead having dominated the game to that point.
City came out for the second half with renewed determination and Lucy Bronze forced Berger into a strong save at her near post on 47 minutes when the City defender struck a first time volley. City brought themselves level on 54 minutes when Demi Stokes deep cross on the left flew over the outstretched glove of Berger and into the top corner of the net.
On the hour mark City went close three times in succession as first Berger held a hard struck Steph Houghton free kick before Tessell Middag headed another deep free kick just wide. The best chance fell to Toni Duggan after Lucy Bronze had done superbly to beat two players, pulling back the ball only to see Duggan fire it over the bar from inside the penalty area with a first time effort.
As City so often have this season they relied on set pieces with Jen Beattie forcing a terrific save from Berger on 77 minutes heading Duggan’s cross at the near post. A minute later they had the ball in the net as Jill Scott poked in another cross after Berger failed to claim but the referee blew for a free kick with Berger having been impeded.
A minute later Berger was called into action to make a superb block as Stanway’s first time pass found substitute Nikita Parris six yards out but the goalkeeper scrambled superbly to block the shot. Moments later Stanway and Parris combined again with Berger pulling off a sensational save to push Parri’s shot onto the bar.
With a minute remaining Toni Duggan raced onto a loose ball, Berger raced out of her goal but the England international was the quicker, knocking it past her into the path of Nikita Parris but she could only land her effort onto the roof of the net from the edge of the area. However Birmingham survived and secured a deserved point at the Academy Stadium having dominated the entirety of first half.
Player of the match: Ann-Katrin Berger (Birmingham City)