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Sporting Club Albion 0 Cardiff City 2
Cardiff City got their Premier League Cup campaign off to a successful start with a 2-0 away win against Sporting Club Albion, who were making their debut in the competition at their Halesowen home.
Albion, having a fine season in the Northern Division, were undone by National Division opponents who carved out a number of excellent chances with quick breaks from midfield. The hosts were always competitive in an enjoyable match but came up against a well drilled defence which has been very effective all season.
The Bluebirds got an early breakthrough to cap a lively start. Ellie Smith got away on the left and sent in a cross which was half cleared after an awkward bounce at the near post but Beth Lloyd pounced on the loose ball to put Cardiff ahead on seven minutes.
Amie Lea had a goal ruled out for offside as Cardiff threatened again and the same player had a shot well held by Albion keeper Becky Thomas before the home side had mustered a chance.
Albion played their way back into the match with Natasha Baptiste's powerful runs and ability to hold the ball central to their play. The striker headed over the bar then sent a long range effort into Rhian Nokes' arms. Emily Owen then had two good efforts on Cardiff's goal around the half hour as Albion had their best spell. A flowing move saw a drive flash wide from a tight angle before Owen produced an outstanding solo effort. Stealing the ball from a throw out wide on the right, she beat two defenders before hitting a 20-yard effort inches wide of the far post.
Defensive uncertainty gave Cardiff a great chance to double their lead on 37 minutes. An underhit back pass saw Lloyd clear but she placed a shot against the angle of post and bar from 15 yards.
Thomas saved well at her near post from Nicola Cousins to keep the deficit at one on 47 minutes. However she was powerless to stop Lloyd netting from 18 yards after a dangerous break down the middle had caused a mishit clearance straight to the Cardiff striker.
Albion needed a boost and substitute Ashleigh Neville provided it, going close from an Owen free kick before racing through the Cardiff defence to shoot just over the bar. Albion pressed on to try to save a point with 20 minutes to go, Baptiste and Jamie Fowler having efforts on goal from long range.
Cardiff were also finding chances as the game became stretched, Lloyd going close to a hat-trick, Lea had a powerful free kick well held by Thomas on 78 minutes and Cousins tried her luck from distance twice to no avail. One final scramble in the Cardiff area was mopped up by a resolute and determined back line which had protected Nokes very effectively all afternoon to earn a deserved win.
With group rivals Aston Villa unable to get their game played against Coventry City, it is the Bluebirds - beaten quarter finalists last season - who top Group Seven after day one. Albion may have lost their debut match, but still have plenty to play for in a variety of competitions.
Sporting Club Albion: Becky Thomas, Laura McQuilkin, Kelly Darby, Jamie Fowler, Amy Rippington, Alice Broadbent, Emily Owen, Sophie Richards, Natasha Baptiste, Robyn James, Kirstie Bavington. Subs: Siobhan Hodgetts, Ashleigh Neville, Abby Pope.
Cardiff City: Rhian Nokes, Amie Lea, Laura Townsend, Terri Beddows, Danielle Broadhurst, Steph Williams, Nicola Cousins, Ellie Smith, Beth Lloyd, Kayleigh Green, Nia Jones. Subs: Annie Pritchard, Zoe Atkins.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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