David Parker's side had been many peoples tip to struggle last season, be in contention to be one of the 1st teams to be relegated from the FAWSL's top teir. As it was Birmingham City Ladies did the exact opposite buoyed by an impressive 2 leg win in the quarter finals of the Women's Champions League against Arsenal Ladies, they took that form into the league season and were at the top of the table for a good portion of it, could have even took the title on the final day were one of three teams that could. Didn't get the result they wanted and ended up deflated and disappointed to finish 3rd.
Will be the underdogs again this season, but have retained all most all of their playing staff from last season, have brought in two new faces Alex Windell and Freda Ayisi. A young squad there is no reason to think they won't be in the mix at the top again.
Manchester City Women enter their 2nd season as an FAWSL 1 club having joined the top teir of women's football last season, bringing with them strong financial backing form the men's club. Brought in alot of new faces several current England internationals last season such as Steph Houghton and Jill Scott. After a shakey start the club got going in the latter half of the season to eventually finish 5th in the league.
Now under the media spotlight the club is under pressure to do well again this season won their first silverware the Continental Cup, now they're expected to climb up the league table maybe even challenge for the title. Mean business again this season adding another crop of international stars with the likes of Lucy Bronze, Sarah Wiltshire, Jennifer Beattie, Nikita Parris, Demi Stokes and most recently Natasha Harding all coming in.
The start of the summer league season you wouldn't have thought so with the clocks going forwards the night before the weather was decidedly horrible. Dark clouds and heavy rain all the way to the Autotech Stadium, was very gloomy and overcast a strong wind swirling about that was to play a large part in the game to follow.
Birmingham City Ladies starting XI - Becky Spencer, Aoife Mannion, Emily Westwood, Kerys Harrop, Jess Carter, Alex Windell, Jo Potter, Jade Moore (C), Remi Allen, Melissa Lawley & Freda Ayisi.
subs - Sophie Baggaley, Meaghan Sargeant, Kirsty Linnett, Emily Simpkins, Abbeyleigh Stringer, Cristina Torkildson.
Manchester City Women starting XI - Karen Bardsley, Emma Lipman, Chelsea Nightingale, Jennifer Beattie, Demi Stokes, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Isobel Christiansen, Nikita Parris, Natasha Flint & Toni Duggan.
subs - Alex Brooks, Georgia Brougham, Kathleen Radtke, Krystle Johnston, Sarah Wiltshire & Natasha Harding.
Birmingham's two new signings Alex Windell and Freda Ayisi were in the starting XI, had Chelsea Weston missing through injury and captain Karen Carney missing through suspension. Jade Moore was wearing the captains armband today as the Blues lined up with 3 at the back, 5 across the middle with Jess Carter providing the width left Windell likewise on the right with Melissa Lawley playing up top with Ayisi.
Manchester City were without captain Steph Houghton out injured aswell as new signing Lucy Bronze. Three of the other new signings were starting, Jennifer Beattie and Demi Stokes as part of a back four with Nikita Parris up front on the right of an attacking trio in a 4-3-3 formation. Jill Scott was captain today.
Was Birmingham all in blue to kick off the match with Manchester City lined up in their sky blue kit. Was a very quiet opening five minutes the ball being exchanged between the midfielders no forward passes getting beyond the defences. Playing three at the back Birmingham are looking for Carter and Windell to provide the width and both are hugging the touchline.
Manchester City's Nikita Parris has the 1st shot at goal a low drive hit from outside the box, Becky Spencer in Birmingham's goal isn't troubled as she drops low to make the save.
Freda Ayisi has seen little of the ball, coming back to try and win the ball back she wrecklessly lunges in on Manchester City defender Chelsea Nightingale, the referee shows Ayisi a yellow card with barely 10 minutes played.
The wind is causing problems swirling about the pitch Manchester City have it at their backs isn't helping them anymore than it is Birmingham, as the rain starts to fall again. Free kicks are tricky as the ball will not sit stationary is causing a little frustration amongst the players. When the ball is played it has to be watched is getting taken by the wind Karen Bardsley in the Manchester City goal keeps her eye on a delivery sent in from deep by Jo Potter takes it cleanly.
|The ball is being hotly contested in midfield|
Isobel Christiansen is playing in the centre of the midfield along side Jill Scott, is the player finding time and space on the ball for the visitors, she sends a pass through the Birmingham defence aiming for the forward run Toni Duggan has made for her, just too long as the ball enters the area Spencer is out and does well saving at Duggan's feet as she closes in.
Goal mouth action is at a premium very little happening a combination of poor weather, a hotly contested midfield and more than a few niggly fouls being put in by both sides breaking up play. Potter on the ball comes over the half way line sends the pass out to Ayisi making a run into space on the right she tries to send the cross in for Melissa Lawley to run onto, the wind helps it reach Bardsley's gloves before Lawley can attack it.
Half an hour gone Lawley has a strike on goal 25 yards out hitting the ball on the turn gets too much lift sails over the bar. A minute later more pressing from Birmingham the ball is crossed in from the left, Stokes in the middle of the six yard box heads it away only as far as Potter 25 yards out she looks to line up a shot, is arrowing towards the top corner, great save from Bardsley to put the ball over for a corner kick.
A good spell from Birmingham are getting Ayisi and Lawley into the game more on the right of the area Ayisi peels away from her marker, drives into the box takes on the shot hit low towards the near post Bardsley has the angle covered.
|Jo Potter on the ball for Birmingham|
Winning another free kick just inside the Manchester City half Birmingham have players up from the back as Potter plays it in towards the area, Ayisi and Mannion both attempt to go for the ball as it lands between them the shot is deflected behind for a corner.
Controversy, corners are taking there time anyway because the ball won't stay in the quadrant due to the windy conditions the referee is having words with the players inside the box when his attention is called to the linesman on the far side of the pitch between the dug outs, after conferring he calls over Ayisi and she is shown a straight red card and sent to the dressing room, not sure why but most likely an altercation* as the linesman was as far away from the incident as I was albiet on the opposite side of the pitch. Whatever the case Birmingham are down to 10. The corner is dealt with.
(* updated entry - With TV camera's at the ground highlights indicate Ayisi had a coming together with Karen Bardsley that caused her to lash out at the goalkeeper the incident spotted by the linesman.)
Half-time Birmingham City Ladies 0-0 Manchester City Women
Going to be tough for Birmingham having to play the 2nd half with a player down. Will have the wind 2nd half although it didn't help Manchester City, would the visitors be able to break them down, trouble was they hadn't troubled the home defence too much in the 1st half Birmingham are keeping a good shape.
Manchester City kick off the 2nd half. Birmingham look to have pushed Allen up a bit to give Lawley support in attack with Carter and Windell tucking in. Early on Birmingham are attacking I think it's Windell that is fouled by Keira Walsh outside the area. The young Manchester City midfielder has come off 2nd best though is down injured looks to be in a lot of pain after lengthy treatment she can't continue is carried off the pitch Manchester City bring on German defender Kathleen Radtke.
Sees a change in personnel with Radtke dropping into the defence and Jennifer Beattie pushing up into the midfield to help Christiansen and Scott. The free kick is taken right corner outside the area it's Moore with the dummy, Potter takes smashes it into the wall, rebounds back to her strokes her low shot wide of goal.
'Another free kick' is a running trend in my notes today Birmingham are getting awarded a lot in the midfield. Potter is the taker of 99% of them looking to play the ball into the area for her team mates to attack, are happy to send players forwards have started brightly despite the numerical disadvantage. Manchester City's defence are dealing with the balls that don't run out of play, one does drop to Emily Westwood 30 yards out from goal, on the turn she strikes a good effort back towards goal curling it doesn't come back enough goes wide.
Manchester City need someone to get hold of the ball in their half and bring it forwards, it's their captain Jill Scott who sees what needs to be done, getting the ball back takes it forwards with purpose is looking for supporting runs in front of her.
|Manchester City's Jill Scott|
Out on the right, Parris and Harrop are having a good contest. The Manchester City attacker is strong against Harrop leaves her on the ground as she bombs forwards squares the ball along the penalty spot a defender slips as she tries to clear it, the ball rolls through to Duggan who doesn't catch it properly leaving Spencer to scoop up a tame ball.
Half way through the 2nd half Birmingham make their 1st change with Alex Windell the player giving way for Kirsty Linnett, the striker going up top in attack with Lawley dropping off to the right. Birmingham continue to rack up the free kicks, they are keeping Manchester City back the disruption isn't helping them get anything going in attack.
Manchester City make their 2nd change with 70 minutes gone Natasha Flint comes off as Natasha Harding comes on to make her debut for the club.
|Birmingham's Remi Allen holding off Manchester City's Jill Scott|
Remi Allen has been battling hard all over the park all afternoon is almost sent through on goal racing into the box, Bardsley is out smartly to save low at her feet. Has been a scrappy game both sides harrying the other forcing rushed passes no flowing moves have been on show the weather can be a good leveller.
Jade Moore is shown a yellow card after she fouls Harding outside the area following another great driving run from Scott in midfield plays the ball into Harding left of the D where she is fouled. Beattie is over the ball hard strike, Harrop is the player in position to make the block as the match enters the last 5 minutes.
Play is extended after Manchester City full back Emma Lipman gets shown a yellow card after a strong challenge on Linnett that leaves the Birmingham attacker on the floor clutching her ankle in some pain, Potter lets the bench knownshe can't carry on. They react bring on Abbeyleigh Stringer to see out the closing minutes. Linnett is up, off the pitch hobbling but able to put weight on her foot.
Late attack from Manchester City, Scott again strong on the ball taking it forwards finds the pass out to Parris on her right, she gets her shot away but the ball is blocked. The final whistle blows and the game ends 0-0 the points shared.
There are games that have 0-0 written all over them and early on this one looked like one of them. Good effort from Birmingham 2nd half with only 10 players dare I say it, looked better than when they had 11. The weather conditions didn't help I gather that was the case up and down the country today both sides had to deal with it though.
Manchester City never really got going had any rhythm struggled in the final 3rd. Gave away far too many free kicks which served to help Birmingham today. Sure both managers Nick Cushing and Birmingham's David Parker wanted to win their opening league game, certainly both didn't want to lose it so I think both will take a point out of todays game look to put a few things right before the next one.