By Joe Brewin at Meadow Park
Arsenal Ladies sent a message of intent to the rest of the Women’s Super League with a dominant 4-2 win over fellow title hopefuls Birmingham on Sunday.
Gemma Davison headed home inside half an hour before Kim Little continued her fine run of goals with a second just five minutes later.
Steph Houghton made it three after the restart following a goalkeeping error from former Gunner Rebecca Spencer and substitute Jennifer Beattie notched a fourth after Rachel Williams had given the visitors a glimmer of hope.
Jodie Taylor struck late for the Blues’ but it did little to affect the scoreline on a fine afternoon in Hertfordshire.
Birmingham had taken all three points in last season’s corresponding fixture but this time they were put to the sword as Laura Harvey’s side ran riot at Meadow Park.
Harvey named a strong line-up for the clash with Alex Scott, Houghton and Rachel Yankey all included after representing England on Thursday.
Little supported the in-form Davison in midfield with Jordan Nobbs and captain Katie Chapman shielding the regular back four. Kelly Smith was named among the substitutes once more.
Both sides headed into this game unbeaten and Birmingham's side featured plenty of internationals too including England quintet Laura Bassett, Karen Carney, Jade Moore, Rachel Unitt and striker Williams.
Unsurprisingly the opening 20 minutes were cagey and but Arsenal eventually steadied their ship and took control.
Nobbs was busy in the centre of midfield and caused numerous problems as the half wore on. The diminutive youngster caught sight of goal after a deflection off Bassett but she could not generate enough power on her shot to trouble Spencer.
Nobbs almost broke the deadlock just two minutes later but glanced a header narrowly wide of the far post.
After a disjointed start, Harvey’s side began to turn the screw. Yankey was also prominent on the left-hand side and saw her dangerous cross strike the bar. Davison was quick on the follow-up but was also denied by the woodwork.
Arsenal continued to push and were eventually rewarded for their efforts when Davison headed home Little’s excellent corner with aplomb.
Birmingham were firmly on the back foot and five minutes later they found themselves with even more work to do. Another Yankey cross caused problems for Spencer, who fumbled and allowed Little to sweep home her 10th goal in eight matches.
After the break things got worse for the Blues’ goalkeeper. Before either side had managed to find their feet in the second half, a terrible error from Spencer allowed Houghton’s powerful strike from the edge of the box to nestle into the back of the net.
The visitors fought back strongly and clawed their way back into the game when England international Williams headed home from Jo Potter’s corner.
Birmingham had been second best for the vast majority of the game and despite a quiet second period it came as little surprise when Jennifer Beattie came off the bench to head home a another fine Little free kick.
Arsenal fans were given even more to cheer when Smith returned from her three-month lay-off for her first appearance since rejoining the Club in March.
Taylor added a second for Birmingham in the dying moments but it did not detract from a vital win for Arsenal.
- Fahey 53
- Chapman (C)
- Nobbs 71
- Houghton Goal!
- Little Goal!
- Davison 64 Goal!
- Beattie 53 Goal!
- White 64
- Smith 71
Birmingham City Ladies
- Weston 90 Yellow Card
- Taylor Goal!
- Unitt 46
- Bassett (C)
- Moore Yellow Card
- Williams Goal! Yellow Card
- Crissy Torkildsen
- Isobel Christiansen 90
- Aluko 46