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Birmingham City 4 (Williams 8,65, Carney 38,43)
Bristol Academy 1 (Garcia 81)
Birmingham City reached the F.A.Women's Cup Final for the first time in their history after running out comfortable 4-1 winners over Bristol Academy at Tamworth, ending their opponents' hopes of a dream Final in their home city.
Three first half goals set the Blues on their way to victory whilst Academy never fully recovered from the first half sending off of full back Alex Culvin for deliberate handball. Academy rallied well after the break and typically did not give up but the task was too great for them to reach a second successive Final.
Playing in their first semi final for 24 years, Birmingham did create an early chance as Karen Carney broke through on goal but an alert Siobhan Chamberlain came quickly off her line to save. Academy were missing suspended duo Grace McCatty and Corinne Yorston, meaning that Alex Windell had to play in the centre of defence but she responded with a good performance and her side matched Birmingham well in the opening stages.
However on eight minutes Birmingham got the breakthrough. Jodie Taylor's low cross from the right travelled across goal and the danger seemed to have been averted, but Carney teed up Rachel Unitt to send in a superb cross and Rachel Williams gave Chamberlain no chance with a powerful downward header.
Three minutes later and things seemed to be falling apart from Academy as Carney's inswinging corner looked on its way in before Culvin instinctively palmed it off the line above her head. The former Everton full back, who had been seeking a third successive Cup Final appearance, was shown the red card but from the resulting penalty, Williams dragged her shot badly wide.
Academy reshuffled by moving Loren Dykes to left back and Michelle Green to the right and they created the next opportunity, Laura Del Rio Garcia making a strong run towards the Birmingham defence before laying the ball off for Melissa Lawley to fire a shot narrowly wide.
Birmingham began to press harder though and took a firm grip on the game seven minutes before half time. Chelsea Weston dispossed Jemma Rose as she tried to shepherd the ball out of play near the goal line and her low ball was helped on by Williams for Carney to make no mistake from ten yards.
Carney almost added another when she was released by Eniola Aluko's chipped pass but her lob lacked power and Chamberlain held comfortably. However a minute later, she was celebrating her second goal.
The player advantage had given Jo Potter more freedom in midfield and she became a constant threat to the Academy defence with her long range passing. A great crossfield ball over the head of Dykes released Taylor down the right and she crossed for Carney to apply the finish at the far post.
Birmingham were threatening to run riot at this stage and Taylor was denied at the near post by Chamberlain's save. The England goalkeeper was to do even better on the stroke of half time when Williams played Taylor through on goal. Chamberlain blocked her initial effort and got up well to save the rebound from Carney, denying the winger her hat-trick.
Academy started the second half brightly with Dykes forcing a save from Rebecca Spencer and Lawley drilling a left foot shot just over after Garcia had won the ball. Garcia and Jessica Fishlock were now more prominent as an attacking force although strikers Nikki Watts and Natasha Harding were well shackled by a strong Birmingham defence.
Birmingham replaced Spencer in goal with Marie Hourihan and she was called into action within 30 seconds, tipping a stinging Garcia drive over the bar.
Birmingham still looked dangerous on the break, particularly Carney who finding a lot of space on the left, but Rose and Windell had grown in stature as a partnership during the game and the England winger was foiled by the excellent Rose on a couple of occasions.
Nevertheless it was the Blues who struck next, killing off any hopes of a comeback as Weston crossed from the right for Williams to score with another powerful header to complete her brace.
A series of substitutions slowed the pace of the game down but with nine minutes left, Angharad James won the ball and found Garcia who made a mazy run into the area, taking her past three defenders before beating Hourihan with a neat finish for a deserved consolation.
Academy had salvaged their pride in the second half but their players began to tire badly in the dying minutes and Birmingham twice went close, Taylor firing a shot over and Williams was inches away from a hat-trick when her strike was just off target.
Birmingham will have to wait two weeks to find out who their opponents will be in the Final at Ashton Gate on 26th May, when Chelsea take on Arsenal in the other semi final.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer (sub Marie Hourihan 62mins), Chelsea Weston, Rachel Unitt, Jade Moore (sub Crissie Torkildsen 75mins), Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Jodie Taylor, Rachel Williams, Eniola Aluko (sub Issy Christiansen 65mins), Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Kerys Harrop, Marie Ballard.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Loren Dykes, Alex Culvin, Jemma Rose, Alex Windell, Michelle Green (sub Angharad James 65mins), Laura Del Rio Garcia, Nikki Watts (sub Ann Marie Heatherson 65mins), Natasha Harding, Jessica Fishlock, Melissa Lawley (sub Ellie Curson 75mins). Subs not used: Rachel Simkin, Jaz Matthews.
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