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Birmingham City 2 (Williams 51, Harrop 69) ASD CF Verona 0
Birmingham City put themselves in the driving seat of their UEFA Women's Champions League tie as two second half goals saw them to victory in the first leg at Stratford.
Dave Parker's side fully deserved their win in their European debut and could have won by a bigger margin against a physical Verona side but will be aware that they still have work to do in the second leg in Italy next week.
Birmingham started the match in typically determined fashion and carried the game to their opponents, putting them under early pressure. Rachel Williams produced their first attempt on goal, controlling a cross from Karen Carney before firing a shot wide.
Jo Potter was next to go close with a low shot from 25 yards which had Stephanie Ohrstrom scrambling across goal but fizzed inches wide of the post.
Verona responded with Marta Mason drilling a shot straight at Marie Hourihan but Birmingham continued to attack strongly and a Potter free kick almost led to a first goal but Williams' attempted header came off her shoulder and off the bar.
Potter was in imperious form during the early stages and she tried her luck from distance again, this time with a dipping shot which landed on the roof of the net. Potter then found space on the left and whipped in a cross but Williams headed over at the far post.
Birmingham pressed for the remainder of the half against a Verona side content to sit back and they rained crosses on the visiting defence but Marina Aggio and former Doncaster Rovers Belles defender Maria Karlsson stood firm against the Blues' threat.
Chelsea Weston and Williams both shot wide and Jodie Taylor got the ball in the net only to see her effort ruled out for offside, meaning that the scoreline was goalless going into the interval.
Birmingham once again seized the initiative at the start of the second half and went close as Potter's crossfield pass picked out Karen Carney whose shot was saved at the near post by Ohrstrom. The resulting corner was not cleared and Ohrstrom again had to pull off a good save from Potter.
On 51 minutes, Birmingham finally made the breakthrough. Issy Christiansen slid a good ball down the right for an overlapping Laura Bassett whose cross picked out Williams and the striker controlled well before planting her shot in the corner of the net.
However minutes later the scores could have been level again as a flick from Tatiana Zorri released Melania Gabbiadini on goal but as she was about to shoot, Bassett saved the day with a superbly timed tackle to deny what looked to be a certain equaliser.
Back came Birmingham and Christiansen, who was having a fine game in midfield, floated a cross into the area which was punched away by Ohrstrom under pressure as far as Jade Moore who volleyed over the bar.
However the second goal was not long coming and after a Potter free kick had not been cleared by the Verona defence, Williams saw her shot parried by Ohrstrom but Kerys Harrop was on hand to tuck home the rebound and double her side's lead.
Birmingham continued to control matters even though a number of players - especially strike duo Taylor and Williams - took a lot of physical punishment and weak refereeing left them with little protection. Gabbiadini in particular was lucky to escape punishment after seeming to kick Harrop in an off the ball incident which angered the home crowd.
Although Hourihan had to make a brave smothering save from Gabbiadini at the other end, Birmingham sought a third goal with Potter drilling a shot narrowly wide after Carney had laid the ball into her path.
As the game went into injury time, Birmingham were unlucky not to go further ahead when Williams made a driving run into the area and threaded a pass to Taylor who flicked her shot past Ohrstrom but against the post.
Birmingham City: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Jade Moore, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Issy Christiansen, Rachel Williams, Jodie Taylor, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Rebecca Spencer, Emily Simpkins, Anna Wilcox, Hannah George, Rachel Unitt, Marie Ballard, Cristina Torkildsen.
ASD CF Verona: Stephanie Ohrstrom, Marta Carissimi, Claudia Squizzato, Marina Aggio, Maria Karlsson, Federica Di Criscio, Silvia Toselli (sub Martina Battocchio 73mins), Melania Gabbiadini, Tatiana Zorri, Cristiana Girelli, Marta Mason (sub Valentina Maceri 53mins). Subs not used: Sabrina Tasselli, Elena Maffezzoni, Veronica Belfanti, Mirella Capelloni, Martina Gelmetti.
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