Birmingham 1-0 Everton
Charlie Wellings scored within a minute to help Birmingham City edge past Everton in the first game of the FA Women’s Super League season.
The hosts took the lead after an electric start with Ellen White finding Wellings who calmly slotted past Kirstie Levell in the net.
Everton looked to level, but Paige Williams blocked brilliantly to deny Claudia Walker and helped secure the points.
While the hosts dominated the ball in midfield, the first half was one with few clear-cut opportunities.
However, City thought they had doubled their lead when White’s header looped over Levell, but Wellings, who put the cross in, was ruled to be offside.
Birmingham again came quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half and would have been further ahead if it wasn’t for some crucial interceptions.
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The hosts had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 when Lucy Quinn found herself free in the box, but Gabby George made a crucial goal-line clearance.
Everton’s only real clear-cut opportunity came 53 minutes into the match when Claudia Walker was given the time to spin and take a shot in the box but Paige Williams was able to put in a vital block.
Further chances came for Birmingham with Williams’ stinging shot cannoning off the crossbar while Levell made a brilliant save from a Lucy Staniforth free kick which was tipped off the post.
Everton tried to push on but Birmingham looked dominant and were able to hold on take the spoils.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The game’s decisive moment game after 42 seconds when Wellings was able to show great composure to slow home.
Birmingham dug deep throughout the match but Wellings’ fast reactions helped ensure it would be a winning start for the hosts.
WHAT THEY SAID
Birmingham City manager Marc Skinner said: “I didn’t like the performance. I have a good conversation with some of the players and that’s the difference from when I first joined to now where we’ve won the game but are not happy.
“Performance is one of our key indicators and we need to make sure our performances are right as it gives us a better chance of winning the game.
“The second half there was too many transitions and became too bitty, we didn’t have control of the game and that’s where I wasn’t happy with that. I’m happy with the result but we strive for performance but we need to make sure we get that right going forward from next week.
“There were positives. We won the game ugly and that’s sometimes what you need to do. But I won’t ever be happy unless we get that performance.
Everton manager Andy Spence: “I thought in the first half we were really poor. We didn’t really do anything that we wanted to benchmark ourselves against in terms of training and what was our plan before the match.
“I think the early goal was a summary of that first half as it was a really poor goal to give away and it immediately puts us in a difficult spot in terms of a challenge to get back into the match.
“In the second half I thought we were better and more than competed. There were some really good moments for us where we just needed the final shot or pass to be more clinical.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to begin the season with a loss but there’s enough to be encouraged about and we will keep battling on.”
Next up for Birmingham City is Sheffield United in the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup. Manager Mark Skinner said: “It is a busy period we’ve got three games in seven or eight days.
“We’ve got the cup game against Sheffield United and then league games against Brighton and Reading. They will be three tough games, three very different game plans.
“But I’ve seen the strength of my squad for what we can use over those games and it will give us a good indicator of where we are at.
“They will be tough. I’ve seen them play twice now and they’ve got a nice way of playing and trying to do something good up there so I’m sure they will put up a very good challenge.
“Looking forward to the games coming up, they will be a challenge we will have to rotate over this period.”
Everton next go up against Reading in the Continental Cup. Andy Spence said: “It will be a tough game but all of the games this year are going to be tough.
“Everyone is going on record saying it is going to be the toughest year on record especially in the league. But it doesn’t matter whether it is league or cup we are going to come out fighting. We have spoken about not wanting to hide against the so called bigger teams in the league.
“We know we have to be ready every week and we are up for the challenge. Reading are a strong team and we hope to give them a good fight and then we’ve got Manchester City and Chelsea. Should be some good games but we are ready."
Birmingham City (4-5-1): Ann-Katrin Berger; Paige Williams, Kerys Harrop, Aoife Mannion, Meaghan Sargeant; Hayley Ladd, Marisa Ewers, Lucy Quinn, Lucy Staniforth, Charlie Wellings; Ellen White.
Substitutes: Chloe Arthur for Marisa Ewers 77, Emma Follis for White 82.
Substitutes not used: Hannah Hampton, Harriet Scott, Shania Hayles, Connie Scofield, Sarah Mayling.
Bookings: Sargeant 58
Everton (5-4-1): Kirstie Levell; Faye Bryson, Danielle Turner, Gabby George, Siri Worm, Georgia Brougham; Inessa Kaagman, Angharad James, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Claudia Walker; Chloe Kelly.
Substitutes: Simone Magill for Stringer 65, Dominique Bruinenberg for Kaagman 65, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah for Walker 80.
Substitutes not used: Rebbeca Flaherty, Taylor Hinds, Hannah Cain, Megan Finnigan.
Referee: James Bell