By Oliver Yew at the DCS Stadium
Arsenal Ladies kept their hopes of winning the FA Women's Super League alive after Kim Little's second-half strike earned Laura Harvey's side a 1-1 draw at Birmingham City on Sunday.
With a place at the top of the WSL at stake for the victor, both sides made tentative starts but it was Arsenal who looked to settle first. The visitors controlled the early stages with some neat passing and movement but couldn't convert in the final third.
But Birmingham, who inflicted a first Women's Super League defeat on Arsenal earlier in the season, went toe-to-toe with the Gunners. Karen Carney firing a cross into the danger area only for Steph Houghton to make a vital intervention at the far post.
In a match that was swinging both ways it was the visitors' turn to go close minutes later when Rachel Yankey caught the Birmingham defence napping from a free-kick, with a disguised pass to Jordan Nobbs who then played in Carter on the edge of the box. The forward, who has scored three goals in her last three games, hit a fierce strike which looked destined for the top corner before being deflected just over the bar.
Despite Arsenal's dominance, it was Birmingham who struck first in the 26th minute through Rachel Williams. Goalkeeper Emma Byrne failed to clear and the WSL's leading scorer pounced to score.
The goal gave David Parker's side a huge lift and they started to play with real confidence. In the 42nd minute, the visitors' defence was split wide open again and Emily Westwood forced Byrne into a smart save low down to her right.
With 45 minutes left to salvage something from the game, Arsenal looked to dictate play but it was Birmingham who nearly doubled their advantage.
The home side hit Arsenal on the counter attack and Williams unleashed a ferocious drive that Byrne did well to parry away.
Arsenal were given another huge let-off when a mistake at the back let in former Gunner Karen Carney. But her curling shot cannoned back off the bar.
It proved to be vital moment in the match as Arsenal hit back through Little in the 69th minute. The Scottish international latched onto substitute Jayne Ludlow's knock-down to fire home from close range.
The game suddenly turned on its head and Arsenal pushed for the winner. The visitors thought they had won it when Houghton bundled the ball home but the referee penalised Julie Fleeting for a foul on Laura Bassett.
In the final minute, Arsenal nearly stole all three points but Ludlow's header from point-blank range was straight at Hourihan.
The draw means Harvey's side remain two points behind Birmingham. But, crucially, they have a game in hand on their title rivals.
- Little Goal!
- Chapman (C)
- Nobbs 48
- White 58
- Ludlow 48
- Fleeting 58
Birmingham City Ladies
- Bassett (C)
- Carney 81
- Schuber 45
- Williams Goal!
- Ballard 81
- Susi 45