Saturday, 3 June 2017

Birmingham City 0 v Chelsea 2 - FAWSL1 - Spring Series

Saturday 3rd June 2017
FAWSL1 - Spring Series
at the Automated Technology Group Stadium.
Solihull Moors FC
Birmingham City (0) 0
Chelsea (1) 2
Karen Carney 22, Fran Kirby 58
Admission £7 advance, £8 on the day
Programme £2.50. Attendance 1171
Click HERE for Flickr photo album from this game
Birmingham City:
Ann-Katrin Berger, Paige Williams, Meaghan Sargeant, Jess Carter (Charlie Wellings 63), Kerys Harrop (C), Sarah Mayling, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Marisa Ewers (Freda Ayisi 70), Rachel Williams, Aoife Mannion, Ellie Brazil
Unused subs - Sophie Baggaley, Andrine Hegerberg, Chloe Peplow, Connie Schofield, Emily Westwood
Carly Telford, Gilly Flaherty, Deanna Cooper, Millie Bright; Gemma Davison (Ramona Bachmann 64), Maren Mjelde, Katie Chapman (C), Crystal Dunn, Ji So-Yun (Erin Cuthbert 90), Karen Carney; Fran Kirby (Drew Spence 84)
Unused subs - Fran Kitching, Hannah Blundell, Beth England
The Spring Series is a one off competition, developed to bridge the gap as the FAWSL is in transition between switching to a winter league having previously been a summer based one.
Marc Skinner's beaten FA Cup Finalists had knocked Chelsea out of the competition at the semi final stage, but never looked likely to play the role of party poopers again this afternoon as the West London side comfortably picked up the three points that they needed to claim the Spring Series title on goal difference of +29, over Manchester City's +11, who had beaten Birmingham in the aforementioned Wembley final.
Chelsea had racked up a total of nineteen goals in their previous four outings, but having taken their semi final defeat to Blues into account today, they approached the game in a cautious fashion, employing a deep four (wo)man midfield strung across a solid looking back three, for whom the former Donny Belles player Millie Bright was outstanding on the left hand side, combining her defensive duties with the role of being Chelsea's main distribution line with a series of probing balls forward whenever the champions elect squeezed the life out Birmingham's attacking intentions before patiently working the ball forward.
A lot of the game was played at barely a trotting pace, but it's June, the sun was sat high in the afternoon sky and with the main stand acting as a windbreak for any light breeze that might offer the players some respite from the summer heat, surely that was understandable, as an intriguing if not overly entertaining game unfolded.
Never had Birmingham's traditional pre-match music of choice: ELO's 'Mr Blue Sky' been more apt.
In effect, Chelsea did what you might call a 'professional job', raising the tempo when  it was required but sensibly adapting to climate, while shutting up their shop to win the game and the Spring Series title, with a horses for courses performance.
Both sides forced corners early on, but Chelsea grew stronger and began to dominate proceedings.
Former Birmingham player Karen Carney started the ball rolling for the first goal scoring opportunity of the day, winning the ball in the middle of the park before battling past two challenges and spraying the ball out wide to Crystal Dunn on the left whose cross was only half cleared into the path of Ji So-Yun, but the South Korean opted for power over precision and volleyed over the bar.
But in the 22nd minute, the visitors made a breakthrough, when the diminutive Fran Kirby was poleaxed Ann-Katrin Berger, who collided heavily with the former Reading player as she ran onto a Gemma Davison knock and burst past the Birmingham keeper.
Berger was booked for the 'challenge' and Carney compounded her misery, by striking the penalty kick straight down the middle as the German shot stopper moved to her right.
"Hey she's called burger!" shouted an excited youngster. "Hey burger, is your mum a cheeseburger!?"
Verpiss dich you cheeky young scamp.
Blues defence did well to keep Chelsea down to a single goal lead at the interval as the Londoners began to turn the screw in an attempt to grind their hosts down.
Bright went close from Carney's dipping free kick and when Kirby swapped passes with So-Yun, Davison went even closer from the resulting cross, but planted her header wide at the back stick.
Maren Mjelde tried her luck a long-range lob that looked destined for the back of the net but Berger did well to back pedal and keep the ball out.
The Blues keeper was tested again right on the stroke of half time, when So-Yun rolled a sideways pass to Kirby ten yards out from the goal, but the keeper advanced smartly and managed to block the England international's attempted shot, before rushing to grab hold of the loose ball.
HT: Birmingham City 0 v Chelsea 1
Mjelde almost doubled the visitors lead at the start of the second half, but her header from Carney's corner kick was deflected wide.
In the fifty eighth minute, the Spring Series trophy was as good as heading to London, when Berger fumbled Davison's cross against the upright and Kirby was well placed to pounce on the keeper's error and gratefully knocked the ball into the back of the net, to claim the simplest of goals.
"We're on the pitch if we have a shot!" Sang a pragmatic gathering of Bluenoses behind the goal that Chelsea were defending steadfastly.
Gilly Flaherty combined with  Kirby and So-Yun, the latter knocked a pass back in the direction of Mjede, who spanked the ball inches wide of the upright.
Ellie Brazil pushed forward for Blues and when Flaherty slipped while trying to clear her lines, it presented Rachel Williams with an opportunity, but her first time shot from all of thirty yards flew wide of the left hand post.
Did the shot preempt the pitch invasion  that the home fans singing section had predicted ten minutes before? Well, it might have done if some of them hadn't already gone to the bar to take on some re-hydrating fluids.
Kirkby was substituted late in the game and the 'cult hero' was warmly applauded by supporters of both teams and the many neutrals present too.
The crowd was made up of around eleven hundred football fans and a scrum of around seventy one young children whose ever growing mass game of tag, was beginning to pick up momentum and numbers at a quite scary rate.
Hey ho! We were all kids once... let the children boogie as Mr David Bowie would say.
Blues finished the game well, raising their game while Chelsea were prepared to sit back on the lead that they knew had won them the seasonal title, but the visitors almost made it three nil deep into stoppage time, when Erin Cuthbert, who had just entered the fray as a late substitute was thwarted by Berger, who got a foot in to block her close range effort as the two of them went head to head.
Blues had huffed and puffed and worked hard, but ultimately Chelsea have a squad made up of quality players, who had put Emma Hayes safety first game plan into action to the letter and comfortably finished the Spring Series off, in a sensible manner that got the job done.
FT: Birmingham City Ladies 0 v Chelsea Ladies 2