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Birmingham City 1 (Wellings 86) Sunderland 0
Charlie Wellings scored a late opportunist goal to extend Birmingham City's unbeaten run to nine matches and lift her side up to fourth place in the WSL 1 table.
In a gruelling match played in stifling conditions at the Autotech Stadium, there were few opportunities of note at either end during the opening 20 minutes although the home side were having the better of possession. The first real chance came via an error when a bad kick out by Rachael Laws was latched onto by Melissa Lawley who raced into the area but she dragged her shot wide.
Sunderland responded with Lucy Staniforth driving a free kick wide from 25 yards but another set piece for the visitors two minutes later led to a chance at the other end. The ball was quickly intercepted by Jess Carter whose pass released Wellings who held off a challenge before her shot was saved by Laws.
The best moments of the game were coming from Lawley who was in lively form and a great run took the winger past two defenders before her cross was deflected into the path of Andrine Hegerberg but the Norwegian skied her shot well over.
Wellings had header saved by Laws before a busy end to the first half saw chances at both ends. Rachel Furness drilled a low shot from the edge of the area which Ann-Katrin Berger gathered low down, following good work by Brooke Chaplen, then the Blues responded with Lawley's pass releasing Hegerberg in the area but Hayley Sharp came to the rescue with an excellent block. Sharp was to go close herself at the other end from a Staniforth corner, her far post volley cannoning off a Birmingham defender and landing on the roof of the net.
The second half started as slowly as the first had done until just before the hour mark, when Lawley managed to escape the attentions of Danielle Brown and drove in a low cross which Steph Bannon sliced towards her own goal but the Sunderland skipper was relieved to see the ball fly straight at Laws.
Laws was again called into action as she came off her line to make a smothering save at the feet of Wellings who had exchanged passes with Freda Ayisi on the edge of the area. Birmingham continued to have a lot of possession but their build up was a little slow, with the exception of Lawley who continued to buzz around and cause a threat down both flanks.
Staniforth tried another long range shot which went straight at Berger and then Beth Mead, who had been unusually subdued all match, looked to have got in when she latched on to Madelaine Hill's pass but Kerys Harrop did extremely well to get back and foil the prolific striker with a well timed tackle. The Wearsiders were also dealt a blow when Furness was forced off with a head injury.
The game looked to be drifting towards stalemate until four minutes from time, when Carter's long throw into the area was inadvertently flicked on by Hill, the ball looping over Laws and back off the bar for Wellings, who was in the right place to sidefoot home from six yards.
There was little time for Sunderland to reply and Birmingham successfully ran down the clock for their fourth league win of the season and their seventh clean sheet in eight matches.
Birmingham City: Ann-Katrin Berger, Alex Windell, Jess Carter, Chloe Peplow (sub Isabelle Linden 45mins), Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Freda Ayisi (sub Marisa Ewers 90mins), Abbey Leigh Stringer, Charlie Wellings, Melissa Lawley, Andrine Hegerberg. Subs not used: Connie Schofield, Sian Johnson, Sophie Baggaley, Kirsty Linnett.
Sunderland: Rachael Laws, Danielle Brown, Abby Holmes (sub Megan Beer 81mins), Rachel Furness (sub Charlotte Potts 71mins), Steph Bannon, Hayley Sharp, Lucy Staniforth (sub Keira Ramshaw 76mins), Victoria Williams, Beth Mead, Brooke Chaplen, Madelaine Hill. Subs not used: Hilde Gunn Olsen, Stephanie Roche, Emma Kelly.
(top) Alex Windell clears away from Madelaine Hill
(middle) Rachael Laws is challenged by Kerys Harrop
(bottom) Danielle Brown under pressure from Jess Carter
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