Birmingham City Women are through to the Semi-Final stage of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup after an outstanding performance away against Brighton & Hove Albion Women on Sunday afternoon. Blues defended resolutely to draw 2-2 after extra-time with their hosts, before beating them 4-2 on penalties.

Blues Women have had recent success in the Women’s FA Cup, running out winners in 2012, whilst they finished runners-up to Manchester City in 2017.

The Quarter-Final tie was originally scheduled for Sunday 15th March 2020, but due to the COVID-19 Pandemic the Women’s Super League (WSL) season was suspended. On 25th May 2020, the FA announced that the season was ending with immediate effect. Blues’ run in the Women’s FA Cup was one of the highlights of a poor 2019-2020 season for the team, having only won twice and drawn once in the shortened season of the WSL but survived relegation by a point.

Despite the curtailment, the Football Association announced that Women’s FA Cup would be completed at the start of the 2020-2021 season, with the final taking place at Wembley on 31st October 2020. The Quarter-Final tie was rescheduled for the weekend of 26/27th September 2020.

Blues have seen a summer of change, with numerous players both leaving and joining the club. However, the biggest news of the summer was Blues appointing the experienced Carla Ward as Head Coach, fresh from a season of leading Sheffield United’s challenge for promotion from the Championship.

Going into the game, Blues had lost both of their opening fixtures in the WSL, with one of those losses coming to the weekend’s opponent’s, Brighton. Both sides knew what they were facing going into this game, but as ever the magic of the FA Cup is never too far away.

Match Report

Blues started the better of the two teams and deservedly took the lead inside five minutes. A low cross from the left evaded Claudia Walker, but Sarah Mayling was at the back post and powered the ball into the roof of the net.

The hosts very nearly got an equaliser but for some great last ditch defending from Harriet Scott, with the full-back sliding in to deny Emily Simpkins.

However, 23 minutes into the game, Brighton equalised. Scott was judged to have fouled Lee Geum-min in the area and Dani Bowman stepped up to convert for the hosts. As the game progressed, Mayling and Scott saw plenty of action down the right side, with the two nearly combining to put Blues back into the lead, but Scott’s header just missed the far post. The sides went in level at the break.

Blues started the second half as they had performed for much of the first and regained the lead not long after the restart. Abbi Grant was pulled down in the area, with Mollie Green stepping up to take the penalty. Green dispatched it well, putting Blues back in the lead and seeing her score her first goal for Blues in the 51st minute of the game.

Blues defended resolutely throughout the game but were undone in the final minute of added time, as Denise O’Sullivan headed in Fliss Gibbons’ cross to take the game to extra time.

Blues got the extra time period underway, but the hosts managed to carve out an opportunity in the 92nd minute through Rianna Jarrett. Jarrett volleyed goalward, only for Hannah Hampton to pull out a wonderful save to deny a certain goal.

Blues continued to maintain a good defensive shape throughout extra time, managing to thwart Brighton attacks time and again and had a fantastic opportunity themselves to take the lead, with Green playing the ball to substitute Jamielee Napier, however Napier saw her effort go just wide.

More steadfast defending from Blues in the second period of extra time saw the game go to penalties.

Green, taking her second penalty of the day, scored the first penalty, with Kayleigh Green firing Brighton’s first penalty over the bar. Claudia Walker then hit the bar with Blues second penalty, and Le Tissier converted for Brighton, which brought the scores level.

Both Christie Murray and Mayling converted their penalties for Blues, with Jarrett scoring for Brighton. Megan Connolly stepped up for Brighton, looking to level the shootout, only for Hampton to dive to her right to deny Connolly and giving Georgia Brougham the opportunity to send Blues to the semi-final.

The centre-back confidently fired her penalty into the top left corner to send the team through after a more than deserving performance.

What the Gaffer said…

“They deserved everything they got today; they have been exceptional since I arrived. This week we saw a real hunger in them and the amount they give every single day. I’m a bit speechless, but overwhelmingly proud.

“We wanted them to look at each other and see how much more they had. I take my hat off to them, I am so unbelievably proud of them. The first half we were good, but the message at half time was that we needed to keep getting better. We had a 15-minute spell where Brighton threw the kitchen sink at us, but we weathered it.”

And on Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton’s who made a crucial save at 2-2 in extra time and Ward was full of praise for the young goalkeeper…

“It’s the best I’ve seen Hannah Hampton play. She’s part of the England set-up for a reason, certainly she showed today why, I just gave her a cuddle at the end, they all got one, because they were good.”

Blues now face Everton at the Stadium on Wednesday night, in a bid to book their place at Wembley for the final. The game will be shown live on BBC Four, 19:15 BST Kick-Off.

Focus Thoughts

What a result! Fantastic display and worthy of advancing through to the Semi-Final. After a tumultuous 2019-2020 season and two losses at the start of this season, it is just the result the team needed. With new coaching and backroom staff and new players in this squad, it feels like there is a real togetherness. Hopefully, this result helps the squad as a whole gain confidence and allow them to kick on from here.