Aston Villa conceded a stoppage time equaliser for the second game in a row, gifting Birmingham City a decisive point in a crucial Second City derby at the bottom of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League last night.
It was a case of déjà vu for the visitors, as, in an almost identical manner to Bristol City’s equaliser just days ago, Birmingham City netted from a last minute free-kick to steal a point from Villa’s clutches, one that almost certainly secures the Blues a place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League for another season.
Substitute Veatriki Sarri’s long-range free-kick cancelled out a first half volley from 18-year-old Freya Gregory, in an otherwise uneventful 90 minutes, far from the intensity expected from a Second City derby with Barclays FA Women’s Super League safety at stake.
The Villains certainly started as they meant to go on, dictating play from the off. Natalie Haigh could not direct an early volley on target before Chloe Arthur headed wide from a dangerous Asmita Ale cross, both inside the first five minutes, as the visitors looked to assert their dominance.
From there it was a high tempo but uneventful first half an hour as both teams struggled to find their footing. Villa dominated possession for the most part but action in the final third was scarce from both sides.
Then, just before the half-hour mark, Gregory tucked away a golden opportunity on the counter to score her first professional goal and give her side a deserved lead. Mana Iwabuchi began the move, threading a perfectly placed through-ball into the path of Shania Hayles. The pacey forward made a darting run down the right before squaring it to the incoming Gregory and while the teenager’s initial shot ricocheted off the bar, she followed it up with a well-placed volley into the bottom corner of the net, in what turned out to be the last action of note in the first period.
A fast-paced first half made way for a second period that can only be described as flat. Birmingham City saw more of the ball but once again could not turn that possession into chances. Other than two questionable Villa penalty shouts and a confusing yellow card for Blues head coach Carla Ward, little of note occurred in regulation time.
However, as six minutes of added time were called it was as if a switch was flicked, the game immediately heating up as we entered a potentially season-defining final few minutes for both sides in the fight for league survival.
As the final minute of the game beckoned, it looked like Villa would succeed in keeping their Midlands rivals at bay, until a dubious hand ball was called 30-yards from goal. Substitute Sarri stepped up and her floated ball in somehow found it’s way into the back of the net. The Villa players and those watching on could scarcely believe what was happening again as the Birmingham City players ran straight to their manager, well aware of what the point would mean.
The draw moved Birmingham City three points clear of the drop while Aston Villa hover just one point and one place above bottom club Bristol City