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Birmingham City 0 Bristol Academy 2 (Natalia 77, Harding 86)
Bristol Academy went level on points with FA WSL leaders Liverpool as two late second half goals put an end to Birmingham City's unbeaten start to the season.
The win was a deserved one for the Vixens who gave a superb defensive display to keep the Blues at bay before becoming only the second team after Everton to beat them at the DCS Stadium in a WSL match.
The first half saw goalmouth action at a premium at either end as both teams struggled to break down well drilled defences. Both sides did have a good chance in the opening quarter hour though, first a mix up in the Birmingham defence saw Natasha Harding steal in but she was wide of the far post with her shot, then two minutes later a neat pass from Kirsty Linnett released Rachel Williams on goal but she was also off target.
Bristol Academy had handed a league debut to youngster Lauren Haynes at right back, due to their lengthening injury list, and she responded with a fine performance whilst Ellie Curson stepped into a depleted midfield and also played well. For Birmingham, the control and skill of Linnett caught the eye and Melissa Lawley had a lively first half against her former club.
The biggest scare for Academy came as one of their players sliced a clearance from a corner towards her own goal but they were able to avert the danger. Siobhan Chamberlain needed to quick off her line to smother from Williams as she latched on to Jade Moore's pass but the two teams largely cancelled each other out and the half ended goalless.
Things remained tight at the start of the second half and a series of free kicks did not help the flow of play. One kick led to Chamberlain turning away a Jo Potter shot which looked to be heading just wide, but the keeper was taking no chances.
At the other end, a Corinne Yorston corner was not cleared and the ball fell for Harding whose shot was cleared off the line by Chelsea Weston, with Jemma Rose firing the loose ball over.
Weston had a free kick charged down by the wall as the game began to open out, with Birmingham then producing the best move of the match so far. A good spell of passing ended with Weston cutting in from the right and crossing for Linnett whose volley brought out an excellent save from Chamberlain.
This proved to be a rare sight on goal for the Blues as Academy continued to defend strongly with central defenders Rose and Jaz Matthews continuing to cement a good partnership. At the other end though, the Birmingham defence looked unusually nervous in possession and this was to ultimately lead to their downfall.
Laura Bassett and Weston got into a tangle and the ball cannoned into the path of Natalia who held off the attentions of Weston before drilling a low shot across Marie Hourihan and inside the far post to open the scoring.
It could have been worse for Birmingham two minutes later as another loose pass was latched onto by Laura Del Rio who tried her luck on goal but was narrowly over.
The second goal was not too long in coming though and once again Academy capitalised fully on a mistake. Hourihan tried to pass to her defence but instead played the ball straight to Del Rio who unselfishly set up the chance for Harding to thump the ball into the net.
Katie Wilkinson was just off target for Birmingham as the game went into injury time but Academy saw the game out for a well merited win which suggests they have the capability to stay with the top teams for the long term.
Birmingham City: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Jade Moore, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Issy Christiansen (sub Katie Wilkinson 72mins), Rachel Williams, Kirsty Linnett, Melissa Lawley, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Cristina Torkildsen, Hannah George, Mary Earps, Coral Haines.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Lauren Haynes, Corinne Yorston, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Angharad James, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Rachel Hignett 79mins), Nikki Watts (sub Laura Del Rio 60mins), Ann Marie Heatherson, Natasha Harding, Ellie Curson. Subs not used: Rhian Cleverly, Ellie Leek, Georgia Evans.
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