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The group stages of the Continental Cup are coming towards their conclusion and the line up for the quarter finals is taking shape, with one team being confirmed as through and three others virtually certain of a place in the last eight.
Eleven matches were played in midweek and yielded an astonishing 64 goals, with only one of those matches producing less than four on the night.
The leadership in Group A has changed hands after Durham Women, who were top at the start of play, were beaten 4-0 by Sheffield Utd. Carla Ward's free scoring Blades took the lead just before the half hour through Keri Matthews and Aimee Palmer added a second ahead of half time. Jade Pennock and Maddy Cusack added further goals after the break to seal a result which sees United move above Durham in the table on goal difference. Neither team is assured a place in the last eight yet but Aston Villa's hopes took a knock as they went down to a penalty shootout defeat at Coventry Utd, after the teams had shared a 2-2 draw. Phoebe Warner fired Villa ahead in the opening minute but Coventry's response was instant, equalising straight away through Amber Hughes. Helen Dermody then out Coventry in front for the first time, before Sophie Haywood levelled matters again five minutes into the second half. The teams could not produce a winner from there and it was Coventry who took the extra point, triumphing 3-1 from the spot. Liverpool kept their chances alive by running out 6-0 winners away to Blackburn Rovers. Rhiannon Roberts gave them a tenth minute lead, with Rinsola Babajide, Melissa Lawley and Ashley Hodson adding further goals before half time. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Missy Bo Kearns wrapped up the win for the Reds by also getting on the scoresheet after the break. Sheffield Utd now face Coventry Utd on the final day, whilst Durham go to Liverpool and Aston Villa take on Blackburn.
Arsenal are all but confirmed as qualified from Group B following their 7-0 victory over Bristol City, who had started the day level on points with them at the top of the group. Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema each scored twice for the Gunners along with Jordan Nobbs, Jennifer Beattie and an own goal. Brighton & Hove Albion ran out 5-0 winners away to London Bees and this has taken them into second place. Amanda Nilden gave Brighton the lead just before half time and after the break, Victoria Williams put them two ahead before they added further goals through Emily Simpkins, Ini Umotong and Katie Natkiel. Charlton Athletic can no longer qualify but picked up their first win of the season, 1-0 against London City Lionesses. Charlie Estcourt scored the only goal of the game with ten minutes remaining, after exchanging passes with Charley Clifford. Arsenal finish up against London Bees whilst Brighton & Hove Albion and Bristol City got to London City Lionesses and Charlton Athletic respectively.
Manchester Utd are practically through to the last eight after a crushing 11-1 win over Leicester City. Ella Toone spearheaded the win with a five-goal haul and she was joined on the scoresheet by Jess Sigsworth, Lizzie Arnot, Kirsty Smith, Jane Ross, Hayley Ladd and Lauren James whilst Libby Smith netted Leicester's consolation. Meanwhile, Cup holders Manchester City have completed their group matches and are in a strong position to reach the last eight as they won 4-1 at Everton. Janine Becker gave City the lead just before half time and although Hannah Cain equalised early in the second half, City responded with Tessa Wullaert putting them back in front almost straight away and they went on to seal the win with further goals from Gemma Bonner and Lauren Hemp. United head the Group C table on goal difference from City who can only be overhauled if Birmingham City - who did not play this week - beat United by at least four goals in the final round of matches.
In Group D, Chelsea became the only team so far which is mathematically assured of a place in the last eight after they defeated Tottenham Hotspur 5-1. Beth England netted twice and she was joined on the scoresheet by Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert and Deanna Cooper, with Rosella Ayane netting Spurs' consolation. Reading FC Women meanwhile scored six times without reply past Crystal Palace and look set to join Chelsea in the knockout stages. Lisa-Marie Utland had a great day for the Royals as she scored five of the six goals, and Kristine Leine was also on target. West Ham Utd will be hoping to capitalise if Reading don't at least draw their final game, after a 3-1 victory over Lewes kept their qualification chance alive. Leanne Kiernan put the Hammers in front, before Kenza Dali netted a brace ahead of half time. Chloe Winchester scored a consolation goal for the Rookettes, twelve minutes from time. Chelsea play Reading in the group's final round of games, whilst West Ham take on Crystal Palace.
The final round of group matches will be played on Wednesday 11th December. The top two teams in each of the four groups will then qualify for the quarter finals.
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