A hard-fought extra time 1-0 win over Birmingham in the final of the Continental Tyres Cup secured a second piece of silverware for the Blues in seven days, as the league champions extended their winning streak.
Lucy Bronze’s header on 105 minutes separated the sides at the Academy Stadium in a hotly-contested encounter of few chances, in front of another record crowd of 4,214.
Nick Cushing’s side had to dig deep to claim this triumph, as Birmingham battled hard and defended resiliently to preserve their clean sheet – a feat only Liverpool have achieved against City this season.
Cushing, who spent the morning in hospital with his wife in labour with their third child, made just one change to the side that defeated Chelsea to lift the league title a week ago, as goalkeeper Marie Hourihan – ever-present in this competition for the Blues – took the place of Karen Bardsley.
The first chance of the game fell to the Solihull outfit, as Kirsty Linnett collected Steph Houghton’s header out and drilled just wide.
The Blues tested Ann-Katrin Berger in the Birmingham goal for the first time on the 15-minute mark, as Jen Beattie unleashed a fierce shot towards the bottom corner, which was parried away well.
The Scot was then involved at the other end, producing an excellent tackle to deny Freda Ayisi a clear route to goal.
Nikita Parris should have done better when played through by Jill Scott, but shot straight at the ‘keeper, while Toni Duggan forced Berger into a fine stop after Demi Stokes has released her.
Ayisi spurned another chance for David Parker’s side, firing wide before City asserted their dominance without breaking the deadlock.
Bronze delivered a teasing cross to the backpost for Duggan to tap home, but Melissa Ewers did well to divert the ball away for a corner.
Substitute Kosovare Asllani then created a chance for herself with a sublime turn on the edge of the area, but Berger was out quickly to thwart the Sweden international.
City thought they had the opportunity to steal the victory in injury time when Izzy Christiansen poked the ball past her marker to race away – but Berger sprinted out rapidly to clear the danger.
That proved to be the last real action of the half and the tie headed into extra time.
The breakthrough finally arrived a minute before the break, as Steph Houghton beat Berger to flick on a corner. Bronze was unmarked at the backpost and rose to direct a looping header into the far corner.
The left-back – tireless and influential – throughout was fully deserving of it.
Tessel Middag almost sealed the win in the second half but struck the post, but in the end, 1-0 was enough for the win.
Once again, there is little time for City to celebrate, as their first ever Champions League adventure begins on Thursday 6 October with the visit of 2009 finalists Zvezda Perm to the Academy Stadium (7pm kick-off). Tickets are available at tickets.mancity.com.
Read more at http://manchestercity.fawsl.com/matchesReport/manchester_city_women_v_birmingham_city_ladies_02_october_2016_report.html#0PCrWgOOCXoO5SBs.99
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photo Cheltenham Racecourse