By Emmet McEvoy at Meadow Park
Arsenal Ladies responded to Tuesday’s defeat against Liverpool with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Birmingham in the Continental Cup.
The Ladies trailed to Rachel Williams’ penalty early in the second half but Gemma Davison’s equaliser and a late header from Ellen White sealed the victory.
Shelly Kerr named the same XI that had started against Liverpool with Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs partnering stand-in captain Steph Houghton in midfield and Davison and Danielle Carter providing width for White in attack.
After a scrappy start, the visitors had the first effort on goal when Melissa Lawley curled a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
A few minutes later Arsenal had their first chance. Davison drove to the byline and her cross caused a scramble in the Birmingham box. The ball eventually fell to Carter but her shot from 10 yards was well blocked.
Jennifer Beattie, filling in at full back, then showed her versatility with a great tackle to prevent Lawley getting in a shot after she was played through by Jo Potter.
It was an even game with chances coming the way of both teams. Houghton headed wide from Little’s corner after 13 minutes before Williams escaped the attentions of Ciara Grant but her header from six yards missed the target.
A few minutes later, Carter’s shot from the edge of the box was easily gathered by Earps.
After 25 minutes Williams took aim from 25 yards and her shot was brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Emma Byrne before Arsenal got the ball clear.
The visitors were having a good spell. After Grant was caught in possession Williams had another sight of goal but curled her shot over.
A few minutes before the break White wanted a penalty for handball when her cross was blocked but referee Adam Crysell waved away the appeals, and the first half ended scoreless.
Much like Tuesday, the opening minutes of the second half were full of drama.
A minute after the restart Houghton thought she had given the Ladies the lead when she headed in from Little’s free-kick but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Seconds later Williams was brought down by Grant in the Arsenal box. The referee awarded the penalty and England international Williams sent Byrne the wrong way from the spot.
After Tuesday’s result and Houghton’s disallowed goal, the Ladies could have been forgiven if their heads had dropped but instead it took them less than two minutes to hit back.
An incredible spell of play saw Davison smash an effort off the crossbar before Grant’s header hit the woodwork as well. The ball broke to Davison again and she made no mistake the second time around, driving a powerful shot past Earps from the edge of the box.
That revived the Gunners and on the hour White saw an effort well held by Earps. Moments later, though, Byrne had to be at full stretch to tip Jade Moore’s shot around the post.
The next 20 minutes were scrappy as both teams cancelled each other out.
The match appeared to be petering out as a draw before a moment of quality saw Arsenal score the winner with just two minutes left.
Houghton played a great pass to Carter on the right flank and White powered home a header from her cross. The celebrations showed just how much the goal meant to the players.
Birmingham still managed to create a chance in stoppage time but Kirsty Linnett’s shot was superbly blocked by Flaherty to help secure a confidence-boosting win for Arsenal.
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