FOOTBALL: BIRMINGHAM City Ladies proved they can compete with the very best once again after holding champions Manchester City away from home following a performance full of pride, passion and grit.
David Parker’s side did their best to spoil the post-match celebrations in Manchester after hold a half-time lead thanks to a a fifth-minute penalty by Aofie Mannion.
But the hosts eventually pulled level through Demi Stokes and the visitors had goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger to thank after she pulled off a series of fine second half saves to earn them a share of the spoils.
A party atmosphere greeted the two sides to the field on Sunday but the home supporters were silenced when Andrine Hegerberg was brought down in the penalty area and Mannion made no mistake from the spot by sending Karen Bardsley the wrong way.
Berger had to be alert again to deny Stokes after she burst into the penalty area and unleashed a powerful shot at goal before the visitors came close to doubling their lead.
Mel Lawley did superbly well down the left to create space for a cross which was cleared into the path of Abbey-Leigh Stringer who unleashed a first-time volley which sailed agonisingly over the bar.
Man City were proving a constant threat going forward and they came close to pulling level when Asllani Kosovare beat two defenders but she could find no way past Berger who made another smart stop at her near post.
The Blues keeper did look beaten on the half-hour mark when Duggan hit a powerful 30-yard drive but a full stretched Berger breathed a sigh of relief to see the ball whistle just past her left-hand post.
Hegerberg came close to finding a second Blues goal but her volley came of Charlies Wellings and was a comfortable take for Bardsley.
Berger denied Kosovare again on 34 minutes after some good work by Bronze to create the chance and Stokes fired over the bar as it remained 1-0 at the break.
Both sides started the second period positively with Bronze seeing her volley well saved by Berger while at the other end Harrop found herself in front of goal but she was cancelled out by Bardsley.
When Berger was eventually beaten in the 53rd minute it was largely down to luck. Stokes struck what looked like a cross but the ball flew over the Blues goalkeeper and into the top corner of the net.
It was a massive hammer blow for the Blues but for the hosts it helped raise their performance up a level.
On the hour mark Jill Scott fired narrowly over the bar, moments later Berger held a trademark Steph Houghton free kick and Toni Duggan blazed a shot high over the bar when she should have hit the target.
Wellings sent a 30-yard effort inches over the bar before Berger produced the save of the match with 12 minutes remaining, as her one-handed save kept out Jennifer Beattie’s close range header.
Three minutes later Berger was called into action again to keep out Parris in front of goal and moments later Parris beat Berger but this time Blues were lucky to see her shot come back off the bar.
Four minutes of added on time set up a tense finish but the visitors were able to hold out for a point which was more than they deserved after more than matching the league champions.
Team: Berger, Carter, Harrop, Ayisi (Linnett 83), Hegerberg, Stringer, Lawley, Wellings, Westwood (c) (Sargeant 53), Schroder (Ewers 67), Mannion
Subs not used – Baggaley, Peplow, Haines