Manchester City Women survived a frustrating first half to score six second half goals as they relegated Birmingham and moved two points clear in third place.
Two goals by Georgia Stanway, strikes from Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Laura Coombs, together with a headed goal by Alanna Kennedy, put the blues above United, whilst also moving nine goals clear in goal difference. A point at Reading on Saturday afternoon will be enough for the blues to finish third and claim the final Champions League spot, providing United don’t win by ten clear goals at Chelsea.
City had won their last eleven games in all competitions, and Sunday’s 7-2 win over Brighton left them a point behind the red but wiped out their superior goal difference. It was a difference story for the visitors, who had to win at the Academy Stadium to stand any chance of surviving the drop.
And for large parts of the first half, Birmingham frustrated the blues to the point that the faithful wondered if the visitors would pull off a shock result. They defended resolutely, blocking City time and again, and when the blues were able to evade the stubborn defence, too many shots were dragged wide of the upright.
Lucy Bronze fired wide, and Lauren Hemp hit the post as the blues dominated the match, but failed to make the breakthrough. Rather than panic, the blues continued to play their usual game, and their perseverance paid off in the 58th minute.
Hemp got a foot in to poke the ball away from the defender, and Demi Stokes found Keira Walsh in acres of space. Her pass to Stanway allowed City’s all-time top scorer raced forward before firing, unchallenged into the bottom corner.
The goal was the catalyst for Birmingham’s downfall as the floodgates opened. Seconds later, Caroline Weir, who has been so lethal in front of goal, fired wide when it would have been easier to score, but just a minute after that, Hemp made it 2-0.
Weir stormed forward through the middle and found Kelly on the right. He high cross was over everyone but dropped perfectly for Hemp to fire home on the volley to make it 2-0. Three minutes later and the blues were home and dry. Kelly brilliantly turned her marker and played the ball into the centre of goal. Stanway’s powerful shot was saved by the keeper and the follow-up blocked, only for the ball to drop again to Stanway, who blasted the ball home.
Kennedy headed home Kelly’s corner on 76 minutes to make it 4-0. It was a simple finish for the Australian international, who was completely unmarked and barely left he floor to knock the ball home.
Five minutes later, Kelly hammered home the fifth. Hemp’s break on the wing left defenders eating her dust, and the winger put the ball on a plate for Kelly, and the striker made no mistake, firing powerfully into the roof of the goal.
There was still time for number six. Kelly’s corner wasn’t cleared by the Birmingham defence, and Julie Blakstad had the presence of mind to play the ball back to Coombs, who fired home from the edge of the area.
The blues have two games remaining and finish their league season at Reading, before heading to Wembley for an FA Cup Final clash with Chelsea.
Final Score: Manchester City Women 6-0 Birmingham City Women