Thursday 12 September 2013
Blues edged out as deflected goal gifted Bristol Academy the victory late on
Bristol had the better of the opening period with Harding almost taking advantage of a defensive mistake midway through the half, only to stab her shot just wide.
Grace McCatty lobbed onto the roof of the net after a half-cleared corner and then Del Rio went on a searing run down the right before unleashing a ferocious rising drive which crashed off the underside of the bar.
The Blues survived two more scares early in the second period when goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer saved Harding’s chip after the forward burst clear, before managing to fingertip Del Rio’s follow-up attempt against the woodwork.
Moments later at the other end, Jade Moore had a clear sight of goal for the Blues but was thwarted by a good low save from Siobhan Chamberlain, who then had to palm away a fierce cross-shot from the impressive Kirsty Linnett.
Though Harding prompted the breakthrough after a good move near the end, it still took some remarkable defending in a manic goalmouth scramble at the death to prevent Blues from snatching a last-gasp leveller.
Blues Ladies boss David Parker praised the spirit of a team featuring a number of youngsters.
“When you're at the top of the league, you get that little bit of luck and that sort of deflection – and it went for Bristol tonight,” he said.
“But we showed the sort of spirit and organisation that we pride ourselves on and our young players really gave Bristol a game.
“When you consider the players we didn’t have – Laura Bassett, Rachel Williams, Rachel Unitt and Karen Carney – I think we can have a hell of a run when they are back and firing next season.”
Manager Mark Sampson believes Bristol Academy Women’s perseverance paid dividends, “I thought we were outstanding in the first half and could have been well ahead by half-time, but credit to Birmingham because they were the better team for much of the second half.
“We had to really stick at it and show a lot of character. The goal came from a bit of luck, but if you put the ball in the right areas then that sort of thing can happen.
“I thought we defended heroically at the end with everyone in a red shirt putting their bodies on the line.”
Bristol Academy (4-3-3): Chamberlain; McCatty, Rose, Matthews, Yorston; Windell, James, Heatherson (Vega 69); Del Rio (Watts 86), Harding, Sanchon (Curson 90). Subs (not used): Leek, Cleverly, Haynes, Walkley.
Birmingham City (4-3-3): Spencer (Earps 63); Weston, Mannion, Westwood, Harrop; Moore, Potter, Christianssen; Haines (Wilkinson 46), Linnett, Lawley. Subs (not used): Simpkins, Tokildsen, Bassett, Williams, George.
Bristol Academy: Mannion (og, 78).
Bristol Academy: None
Birmingham City: None
Referee: Alexandra Ihringhova.