A depleted Birmingham City condemned rivals Aston Villa to a 1-0 defeat at Villa Park in an underwhelming inaugural Second City derby in the FA Women’s Super League.
The visitors found the winner through in-form Claudia Walker with 18 minutes to go and held on comfortably to topple their rivals, despite only being able to field a bench of two substitutes.
It was certainly not a derby for the ages, with the majority of the 90 minutes being a low-intensity, quiet affair, characterised by bad decision-making in possession from both sides. In the end, it was decided by a beautiful strike from a player that Birmingham City have come to rely on for these kind of moments, as Walker yet again scored the match-winner to send her team into sixth place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table with nine points.
In what was far from a high-tempo first half, Aston Villa certainly started the better side, keeping the ball well and winning the midfield battle in the early stages.
Ramona Petzelberger looked sharp early on for the home side and in the fourth minute she got the first chance of the game, with Chloe Arthur’s corner finding her on the edge of the box but her resulting shot went just wide of the post.
As the half went on, Villa continued to build momentum and controlled the possession well but struggled to turn the ball goalwards in the final third, squandering their early dominance.
As the half hour mark passed, Birmingham City began to find their footing, seeing more and more of the possession as they grew into the game. Some lovely play in midfield from Connie Scofield and Walker sent Mollie Green through on goal twice in a matter of minutes but her eventual shots didn’t trouble Lisa Weiss.
Despite their early struggles, Blues went into the break the better side after a quiet first half in which neither side managed to trouble the goalkeepers.
The second half continued much like the first with neither side really out of first gear. Both teams were seeing plenty of the ball and keeping it well but in the final third couldn’t make anything happen.
As the game wore on, the fresh legs of Villa’s substitutes looked like they might make the difference with Nadine Hanssen forcing Hannah Hampton into a low save with a powerful volley but still there was no breakthrough.
Despite their inability to change things with only two players on the bench, Carla Ward’s side fought hard and in the 71st minute their work paid off as Walker scored her fifth goal in as many games to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Substitute Lucy Whipp’s cross was cleared by Elisha N’Dow but only into the path of Walker whose thumping shot flew into the back of the net.
The goal catalysed a change in tempo from Gemma Davies’ side as they looked to find an equaliser but they were unable to make it count and the intensity was short-lived. In fact, it was Blues who had the better chances in the closing stages as they pushed hard to consolidate their lead and condemn a disappointing result for a Villa side that look to finally be finding their feet.
It was a far cry from the thrilling Women’s Football Weekend derby that Barclays FA Women’s Super League fans will have hoped for but with another three points under their belts, Ward and Birmingham City won’t care at all as they proved the underdog tag is perhaps one that is no longer fitting.