Penalties see Birmingham through in fascinating cup tie
Brighton & Hove Albion: Fiskerstrand; Le Tissier; Kerkdijk; Stott; Gibbons; Whelan; Bowman (c) (O’Sullivan); Simpkins (Connolly); Williams (Jarrett); Heroum (Kaagman); Guen Min Lee (K. Green)
Birmingham City: Hampton; Scott; Brougham; Corsie; Holloway; Mayling; M. Green; Whipp; Grant (Napier); Murray (c); Walker
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (Bowman; O’Sullivan) v 2 Birmingham City (Mayling; M. Green) (Birmingham City won 4-3 on penalties)
Sunday’s match up between Brighton and Birminghm was everything you could have wanted from an FA Cup fixture – a non-stop quality display with drama at both ends, both teams giving it their all and a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Carla Ward’s Birmingham started the stronger of the two sides with Harriet Scott and Sarah Mayling causing havoc down the right flank. The latter continued her brilliant form so far the season to blast her side into the lead in the first five minutes.
“She’s [Sarah Mayling] been absolutely, outrageously good out there. She offers so much defensively; she offers so much getting forward; she’s got so much energy. Honestly, she’s hugely underrated because I think she’s been superb.”CARLA WARD, BIRMINGHAM CITY MANAGER
The hosts settled into the game and fashioned some opportunities of their own. They couldn’t make it stick, however, until they were awarded a penalty as Scott pulled Fliss Gibbons to the ground. Captain, Dani Bowman, stepped up to convert.
From that point, both sides traded chances. Scott went close with an flying header that sent Cecilie Fiskerstrand scrambling before Emily Simpkins headed wide for the hosts from an umarked position.
It was the visitors who took back the initiative early in the second half when Danique Kerkdijk tugged on Abi Grant’s shirt. Mollie Green stepped up to score from the spot.
Hope Powell rang the changes and her side threw everything at the game. The final 20 minutes was controlled by the hosts and they eventually got their equaliser. In the dying stages, Denise O’Sullivan notched her first goal for the club to force extra time.
A brilliant save from Hannah Hampton was a big moment early on in the added period to deny Brighton. From that point, the game drifted towards penalties. Kayleigh Green missed first to give the visitors the upper hand but Claudia Walker canoned her penalty of the crossbar to level the score. Hampton made a big save to keep out Megan Connolly. It gave Georgia Brougham the chance to win it for her side and she converted to send Birmingham into the semi-finals.
Player of the Match
Hannah Hampton: This was a hard one to pick but Hampton was superb from start to finish. Commanding in the air, she time and again leapt to pluck crosses away from the Brighton forwards. As the game wore on, she made several big stops to keep her side in the game. The stand-out was early in extra time when she got down low to keep a shot out from point blank range. This came just minutes after she got vital fingertips to a stinging Rianna Jarrett curler. A top performance from one of England’s most exciting young keepers.
Moment of the Match
Denise O’Sullivan’s last-ditch equaliser: It was starting to look like it wasn’t going to happen for Brighton. Despite the pressure they were applying to Birmingham, things did not seem to be clicking in front of goal. However, Powell brought on the quality of O’Sullivan for a reason and the Irish star didn’t disappoint as she stamped her mark on the game. With Gibbons in space down the the left, she lifted the ball to the midfielder who was waiting at the near post to glance the ball into the back of the net.
- Brighton’s strength in depth: The hosts did struggle for much of the first but they showed the resources that they have this season in the players Hope Powell was able to bring off the bench. O’Sullivan, Connolly, Kaagman, Jarrett and Kayleigh Green all came on in the second fire to add attacking fire to the game. All five had a big impact as Brighton fought back and got that all important equaliser. These numbers will be important to have as the season progresses.
- Birmingham’s resilience: Many didn’t rate Birmingham’s chances this year but in the two games we’ve seen so far they have shown plenty of character and resilience to give them a strong chance. Even when they conceded late, they didn’t wilt. Claudia Walker, Christie Murray, Mayling and Scott in particular had stand-out performances and did not stop running for the 120 minutes.
I looked at the bench just after they conceded, and I said we’re still not going to lose this. You could see fire in their bellies and even with FIVEE minutes to go in extra time, we’re seeing Christie [Murray] still running 60 yards to try and make things happen; you’ve got Claudia [Walker] up top running all over the park. They did not want to lose that game and credit to them because the stats from Sunday…you’d be astounded. They were exceptional.”CARLA WARD, BIRMINGHAM CITY MANAGER
- Quality of the contest: One thing’s for sure, this was an absolutely fabulous advertisement for the Women’s FA Cup. Both Brighton and Birmingham left nothing out there on the pitch in a game that was brimming with tension, quality and excitement from start to finish.
- Why was it not streamed? It is so sad that Brighton, Birmingham and general football fans were unable to watch the game live. We would have loved to have seen it on the FA Player, a platform that was made for these kinds of fixtures. Especially in these times, when fans are not allowed at games, it seems a missed opportunity to not utilise the technology available.
Quote of the Day
“When I spoke to them in the huddle at the end, I started to tell them how overwhelmingly proud I was. I actually felt something in my throat, and I had to nudge my assistant to talk because I was thinking, “Oh my god, I’m going to cry here”…They were exceptional. I actually joked that some of them walked onto the coach looking like they were 95. So, they left everything out there.”CARLA WARD, BIRMINGHAM CITY MANAGER