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Women's Football News
Birmingham City 1 (Simpkins 33)
Arsenal 1 (White 49)
Birmingham City and Arsenal battled out an entertaining 1-1 draw which confirms the Blues as runners-up and saw the Gunners complete the season unbeaten.
With the teams due to meet again on Wednesday in the Continental Cup Final, both managers took the opportunity to rest players and give opportunities to the likes of Yvonne Tracy and Emily Simpkins in the starting line ups.
Both teams had also played Champions League matches in midweek and therefore took a little time to settle down in the opening stages. Alex Scott tested Rebecca Spencer with a snap shot and Jennifer Beattie burst into the Birmingham area but was halted by an excellent tackle from Laura Bassett.
Birmingham produced their best chance so far as Issy Christiansen laid the ball off into the path of Eniola Aluko whose effort was just off target. Arsenal went immediately on the attack with Scott sliding a good pass into the path of Beattie who drilled her shot narrowly past the far post.
The home side enjoyed a good spell and it took a good clearance from Scott to prevent Simpkins from getting on the end of a Christiansen cross. However three minutes later, Birmingham were in front after Karen Carney broke down the left and found Christiansen in the centre, the midfielder squaring the ball across to Simpkins who calmly steered a left foot finish into the net for her first goal of the season.
Birmingham continued to look bright going forward - despite being without their recognised front two - and Kerys Harrop saw a header deflected wide by Steph Houghton from a Carney corner whilst Jo Potter was just off target with a strike.
Four minutes into the second half, Kelly Smith escaped the attentions of Emily Westwood to make her way into the area where her shot was parried by Spencer and although Beattie's effort from the rebound was blocked by Potter, Ellen White was on hand to tuck the ball home and level the scores.
Birmingham responded with a Potter free kick which was over the bar but Arsenal were starting to take control of matters and the introduction of Kim Little as substitute gave them extra impetus. Little was immediately involved as she drilled a shot from just outside the area which was saved by Spencer.
The home side still had chances of their own though and after a Rachel Unitt pass had not been cut out by Ciara Grant, Marie Ballard was left with a good chance but shot hurriedly over the bar. Carney then went close with a free kick from an acute angle which was tipped past the post by Emma Byrne.
At the other end, Beattie headed over from a Little free kick and a lightning fast counter attack from a Birmingham corner almost led to an Arsenal goal. Gemma Davison swept a superb crossfield pass into the path of Little who drew a defender and crossed for Danielle Carter whose shot was just wide.
There was a huge scare for Birmingham as the Gunners had very strong claims for a penalty turned down. White nipped in to take the ball off Cristina Torkildsen and raced into the area where Torkildsen, in her efforts to win it back, seemed to bring White down from behind but, despite appearing to be a certain penalty, referee Sian Massey waved away Arsenal's appeals.
Davison was at her sharpest on the right after coming on and another good run and cross ended with Carter having a shot saved by Spencer. Davison herself went close next with a shot which hit the side netting after she had been picked out by Little's pass.
As the game went into the dying minutes, both sides went close to winning the game. Ballard did well to find her way to the goal line and cut the ball back to Simpkins whose goalbound shot was blocked by Tracy.
Arsenal went back on the attack and won a corner on the left. Little's kick was headed down by Houghton and flicked past Spencer by Davison but Simpkins was on hand to clear off the line.
Both teams would have been satisfied with the outcome - Birmingham, for whom Christiansen was outstanding in midfield, picked up the point they required to secure a Champions League place whilst Arsenal achieved their goal of an unbeaten league campaign. It is to be hoped that Wednesday's Final can be just as well contested.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Emily Westwood (sub Cristina Torkildsen 49mins), Rachel Unitt, Emily Simpkins, Kerys Harrop, Laura Bassett, Issy Christiansen, Jade Moore (sub Hannah George 60mins), Eniola Aluko (sub Marie Ballard 47mins), Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Rachel Williams, Anna Wilcox.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Niamh Fahey (sub Gilly Flaherty 74mins), Steph Houghton, Ciara Grant, Yvonne Tracy, Katie Chapman, Jennifer Beattie (sub Gemma Davison 71mins), Ellen White, Kelly Smith (sub Kim Little 61mins), Danielle Carter. Subs not used: Sophie Harris, Jayne Ludlow, Rachel Yankey, Bianca Bragg.
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