Williams ends Birmingham’s goal drought with late winner
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
Winners: Rachel Williams, right, with team-mate Adrienne Jordan