Wil­liams ends Birm­ing­ham’s goal drought with late win­ner

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - At Dam­son Park

A Rachel Wil­liams header proved de­ci­sive as Birm­ing­ham edged a scrappy en­counter against Everton to se­cure max­i­mum points in their open­ing group game of the Con­ti­nen­tal League Cup.

That they did so will be a huge re­lief for Marta Te­je­dor’s side, who had failed to score in their two open­ing league de­feats. Had they fin­ished this game goal­less – in which case a penalty shoot-out would have en­sued – it would have surely set the alarm bells ring­ing.

Birm­ing­ham are yet to fully re­cover from an ex­o­dus of strik­ers over the sum­mer that saw six of their top league goal scor­ers last sea­son leave, among them Eng­land’s highly-in­flu­en­tial for­ward Ellen White.

It is why this vic­tory over their high-fly­ing op­po­nents was also cru­cial. Should she re­turn to full fit­ness by Novem­ber, White could face her old team-mates in the sec­ond group game for her new club Manch­ester City who, along with Manch­ester United, will pro­vide fur­ther tests for Birm­ing­ham in this tough group.

“I hope the goals will come through the sea­son, but ob­vi­ously hav­ing Ellen White gave us se­cu­rity,” said Te­je­dor. “When Ellen was here, she needed three chances to score one goal, that was the av­er­age and we’ve lost that. We knew we’d miss her a lot and we do.

“We don’t have that player to re­place her. What we’re try­ing to do is share our op­por­tu­ni­ties be­tween dif­fer­ent play­ers. We’re not look­ing for some­one spe­cific to do that job but shar­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity among five or six play­ers up front.”

Op­por­tu­ni­ties in the first half re­mained scarce for the hosts and it took Bri­anna Visalli’s penalty shout to in­ject the hosts with some verve to­wards the end of the first pe­riod, two Lucy Stan­i­forth free-kicks the clos­est Birm­ing­ham came to break­ing the dead­lock. The Eng­land mid­fielder ar­rowed her sec­ond at­tempt from an iden­ti­cal po­si­tion barely min­utes af­ter her first looped over, watch­ing her shot sail through a sea of flu­o­res­cent Everton shirts en route to Kirstie Lev­ell’s wait­ing gloves.

Up un­til Wil­liams rose high to pow­er­fully nod home Stan­i­forth’s in­swing­ing cor­ner, both sides strug­gled with ball re­ten­tion and ping-ponged pos­ses­sion around in the mid­field. Everton, who have bat­tled rel­e­ga­tion dur­ing their first two years in the top flight, have turned many heads with their un­beaten league start to the sea­son which has pro­pelled them to the top of the Women’s Su­per League and, un­sur­pris­ingly, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions showed greater in­tent go­ing for­ward.

As ex­pected, much of their at­tack was an­chored around in-form striker Chloe Kelly, who tire­lessly ad­vanced down the right flank, buoyed from her two sub­lime fin­ishes against Bris­tol last week. But the goal ul­ti­mately took the wind out of their sails, per­haps best summed up when ref­eree Lucy Oliver waved away Gabrielle Ge­orge’s penalty ap­peal late on, min­utes af­ter Abbi Grant nearly dou­bled Birm­ing­ham’s lead through a curl­ing ef­fort that struck the wood­work. Birm­ing­ham City

Subs Everton

Ref­eree

Win­ners: Rachel Wil­liams, right, with team-mate Adri­enne Jor­dan

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