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Birmingham City 2 (Moore 75, Lawley 86) Everton 1 (Parris 15)
Birmingham City cemented their place in the top half of the FA WSL table when two goals in the last fifteen minutes saw them come from behind to beat Everton.
However a thrilling game, which saw the rarity of being competed for by 22 English players, ended in controversy when a poor refereeing decision denied Everton what would have been a last gasp equaliser.
There was a late change to Everton's starting line up when Rachel Brown-Finnis, who had been named as goalkeeper, was replaced by Megan Walsh who was making her WSL debut and the teenager, fresh from England duty in the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championships, responded with an excellent performance.
Everton started the game confidently with Toni Duggan and Nikita Parris looking sharp up front but it was Birmingham who had first meaningful attempt on goal, Jo Potter curling a free kick just over the bar.
On the fifteen minute mark, Everton took the lead when Parris seized onto a loose back pass and showed great composure with an emphatic finish into the far corner, giving Rebecca Spencer no chance.
Moments later, another loose pass gave Duggan a chance to try her luck on goal with a shot which was saved by Spencer. Birmingham were creating their own opportunities though and a long ball out of defence almost let in Kirsty Linnett on goal but she was halted by a fine saving tackle from Alex Greenwood.
A Karen Carney free kick was half cleared by the Everton defence as far as Potter whose strike from the edge of the area was well held at full stretch by Walsh.
Everton were continuing to dictate matters at this point though and passed the ball around well with Michelle Hinnigan at the hub of most moves. Despite this, they could not add to their lead as Birmingham dug in to keep themselves in the game, going closest through a 20-yard strike by Hinnigan which dipped narrowly over the bar.
The second half began with Birmingham pressing further forward and this almost brought an early reward when Chelsea Weston unleashed a powerful shot which was turned over the bar by Walsh.
The home side had stepped up the pace after the break and they were looking a different side. Carney was particularly lively on the ball whilst Jade Moore kept up her recent good form with a dominating second half display in midfield.
Birmingham produced their best move so far just after the hour mark when, following initial good work by Issy Christiansen, Carney's pass was laid off by Linnett into the path of Moore whose well struck shot brought out another superb save from Walsh.
Everton responded five minutes later following a good interception from Brooke Chaplen, whose headed pass picked out Hinnigan on the edge of the area and the midfielder was narrowly wide with a shot on the turn.
The turning point of the match came with twenty minutes remaining. Everton were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal and Paige Williams, who had been on the field for barely a minute, stepped up to hit a powerful strike which crashed against the bar and away to safety.
Birmingham came on strong again and got themselves back on level terms five minutes later. Potter drove a free kick into the area and Moore did well to steal in and beat Walsh with a glancing header for the equaliser.
The same move almost led to another Birmingham goal two minutes later, Potter drilling another dangerous free kick towards the Everton goalmouth but this time the oncoming Kerys Harrop was denied by Greenwood who made a vital clearing header. The resulting corner from Potter went as far as Carney beyond the far post, she returned the ball into the area for Emily Westwood whose header was cleared off the line by Williams.
Carney was inches away from reaching a Harrop cross and Linnett made a good run towards goal and exchanged passes with Carney to put her through but again the outstanding Walsh denied her with a fine save.
However there was nothing Walsh could do with four minutes remaining as Birmingham completed their comeback. Potter switched play with a crossfield pass to Harrop whose slide rule pass released Melissa Lawley on goal and the winger confidently slotted the ball home to put her side in front for the first time.
Everton tried hard to get back on terms and their chance came when they were awarded a free kick five yards outside the area. Once again Williams took the kick and once again struck the bar, this time due to Spencer having done well to get a hand to the ball, and Duggan followed to head in the rebound. However, almost inexplicably, the referee had blown his whistle to penalise Christiansen for encroachment, even though the ball had not touched the Blues midfielder, and the goal was ruled out and a retake ordered. Williams drove her second attempt over the bar and Everton's final chance had gone.
Everton were aggrieved at the decision and it was a sad way for an entertaining match to end, but Birmingham had given a fine second half performance to earn a result which puts them in the driving seat for a possible fourth place finish.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Emily Westwood, Issy Christiansen, Melissa Lawley, Kirsty Linnett, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Crissy Torkildsen, Hannah George, Coral Haines, Mary Earps, Kate Wilkinson.
Everton: Megan Walsh, Brooke Chaplen, Vicky Jones (sub Paige Williams 69mins), Amy Kane, Alex Greenwood, Lindsay Johnson, Jody Handley, Jill Scott, Toni Duggan, Michelle Hinnigan, Nikita Parris (sub Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah 73mins). Subs not used: Lucy Whipp, Simone Magill, Billie Murphy.
(top) Jody Handley is watched by Aoife Mannion
(middle) Jill Scott makes a well timed tackle on Chelsea Weston
(bottom) A 50-50 ball between Amy Kane and Kirsty Linnett
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