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Birmingham lift Cup after shootout
 Women's Football News 27 May 2012
 
Birmingham lift Cup after shootout - 27 May 2012 - Women's Football NewsBirmingham City 2 (Williams 90, Carney 111)
Chelsea 2 (Lander 69, Longhurst 101)
Birmingham won 3-2 on penalties
att: 8,723; at Bristol City F.C.

Birmingham City won the F.A.Women's Cup for the first time in their history after twice coming from behind before beating Chelsea in a tense penalty shootout in hot conditions at Ashton Gate. 
 
The success marked the Blues' first ever major trophy but it was hard not to feel sympathy for a Chelsea side which had been seconds away from winning the Cup in normal time in a thrilling and dramatic Final.
 
The first clear opening of the game came as Karen Carney delivered in a teasing cross from the right for Kerys Harrop whose downward header was blocked by the legs of Carly Telford.
 
A clever free kick routine almost led to a Birmingham chance as Carney whipped in a dangerous ball but Gemma Bonner made a vital covering challenge to clear for a corner as Jodie Taylor looked poised to score.
 
Taylor shot wide after doing well to work herself an opening on the edge of the area but at the other end of the pitch it took a strong tackle from Laura Bassett to deny Dunia Susi after the former Birmingham midfielder had made a strong run down the right and into the area. Chelsea players appealed for a penalty but their claims were rejected.
 
Birmingham went close again as Carney slid a good ball down the right for Rachel Williams whose cross picked out Carney but Telford just did enough to pressure the England winger who sent her header wide.
 
Chelsea hit back and Laura Coombs' flick released Helen Lander who took her time before unleashing a left foot shot which looked destined for the corner but Rebecca Spencer pulled off a superb diving save to her left.
 
Birmingham did get the ball in the net as Taylor prodded home from Williams' knock down but an offside flag ruled the goal out, the decision later being proved to be incorrect as Claire Rafferty had in fact played her onside.
 
Emily Westwood headed over from a Carney corner but moments later, Lara Fay's long clearance saw Lander ran through on on goal from Katie Sherwood's flick and her shot beat Spencer but came back off the post.
 
The opening minutes of the second half were more tense and scrappy but the game began to open up again with Danielle Buet firing a shot at Spencer and Telford needing to be alert and come off her line to deny Williams as she tried to latch onto Taylor's pass.
 
A dangerous inswinging corner from Rafferty saw Spencer come under pressure and the ball fell kindly for Sherwood but she volleyed harmlessly over. There was a scare for Chelsea at the other end as Telford's goal kick went straight at Williams but the striker returned her shot over the bar.
 
A long crossfield pass from Rafferty picked out Susi on the edge of the area where she drew Unitt and fired in a shot which hit the side netting. However there was no escape for Birmingham a minute later as Lander collected a long clearance from Bonner and cleverly tricked her way past Bassett, flicking the ball through the defender's legs and making her way on goal before planting a left foot shot past Spencer and into the corner of the net.
 
Birmingham hit back straight away with Carney exchanging passes with Eniola Aluko before her shot was blocked by Telford. Aluko did well to get past Sophie Perry from the rebound and crossed but Sophie Ingle did brilliantly to deny Taylor from point blank range.
 
Buet fired over following a good run and lay back from Kate Longhurst as Chelsea continued to control matters but Birmingham did have penalty appeals turned down when Chelsea Weston tumbled over under a challenge from Ingle.
 
As the game went into the dying minutes, Chelsea continued to stand firm with teenage central defenders Bonner and Ingle having superb matches and Rafferty looking back to her best at full back.
 
Birmingham threw everything forward and it took a goal line clearance from Rafferty to deny Taylor from close range. However the pressure told and from the next corner, Chelsea were unable to clear and Williams showed great composure to guide her shot into the net from ten yards out.
 
Chelsea went very close in the early stages of extra time as Longhurst cleverly turned away from Bassett and burst down the left before trying her luck with an audacious effort which was turned over the bar by Spencer. The resulting corner came to nothing and Birmingham went straight back on the attack, the ever lively Taylor getting behind the Chelsea defence and holding off a challenge but lifting her shot disappointingly past the post.
 
As play continued to flow from end to end, Sherwood fired a left foot shot just over the bar and a Unitt cross at the other end was fractionally too high for Williams who could not direct her header on target. Space suddenly opened up for Carney in the area from Taylor's chipped pass but Bonner did extremely well to get across and block her shot.
 
This challenge proved even more vital a minute later as a mix up at the other end gave Chelsea the chance to go in front. Bassett turned away to let a Weston header run through to Spencer but the keeper had no chance of getting there and Longhurst took full advantage, latching onto the loose pass and burying her shot past Spencer to restore her side's lead.
 
Carney played in Aluko in the opening minutes of the second period but the England striker elected to cross instead of shooting and the Chelsea defence were able to clear.
 
However a moment's lapse in concentration and a tinge of controversy cost Chelsea dear after Perry was penalised for a foul on Carney 20 yards out. While Chelsea were still organising their wall, Carney curled a quickly taken free kick into the far corner of the net, the referee allowed the goal and Birmingham were level once again.
 
Perry made another good clearance under pressure from Taylor after Aluko had sent a good cross over. Susi made a good run into the Birmingham area but was crowded out and this was the last opportunity, sending the game to penalties.
 
Sherwood coolly found the corner of the net before Williams' kick was saved by Telford. Spencer then saved from Drew Spence and Unitt drove home to level things up. Rafferty shot wide and Taylor sent Telford the wrong way to put Birmingham ahead for the first time but Buet quickly levelled. Carney found the corner but Bonner blazed over and Birmingham were the winners.
 
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Rachel Unitt, Kerys Harrop (sub Eniola Aluko 63mins), Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore, Rachel Williams, Jodie Taylor, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Issy Christiansen, Maz Ballard, Crissy Torkildsen.

Chelsea: Carly Telford, Lara Fay (sub Sophie Perry 69mins), Claire Rafferty, Sophie Ingle, Gemma Bonner, Katie Sherwood, Helen Bleazard, Danielle Buet, Dunia Susi, Helen Lander (sub Kate Longhurst 75mins), Laura Coombs (sub Drew Spence 58mins). Subs not used: Sarah Quantrill, Ashlee Hincks.


 
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