A rolling free kick put comfortably wide by Beth Mead on the half hour did well to sum up the host’s performance in the first half, the team suffocated by a well-drilled Birmingham team. Unable to cut through the defence, with the majority of the team still looking tired after their weekend match against West Ham, there was little for the home fans to enjoy.
With rumours about Marc Skinner’s departure having floated around the previous night, the Midlands side showed no signs of distraction as they battled a familiar foe in Borehamwood. Defensively rigid and finding enough inspiration in attack to keep the red backline busy, the visitors remained deadlocked after Sari van Veenendaal read Aoife Mannion’s spot kick to get down low and fast and deny the defender.
Still having the best of it from front to back, the Blues took the lead on the hour when Lucy Quinn nipped in between Dominque Bloodworth and van Veenendaal to get the send the ball home. The match tied up six minutes from time as Danielle van de Donk nodded Katie McCabe’s cross beyond Hannah Hampton. The match won in the first minute of stoppage time as Vivanne Miedema pulled Hampton out and slotted the ball into the far corner.
Final four, best two
As always with Birmingham, it was the strength of the defence that allowed the team to blossom, the diligent work of Kerys Harrop up and down the left crucial for the visitors. Whether helping mount an attack or getting back to provide extra cover for the centre backs, the captain set the example for the victors.
Similar to Sunday, Arsenal’s best player – a comparative idea when most of the team was off of the pace – was Beth Mead, the winger the inspirational spark in the side.
With the WSL cup dominated by Arsenal since its inception, but the league title a distant memory for the Gunners, this might very well be one game they would have been okay with losing. But ruthless to the last, the host dug out a winner, happily keeping them from extra time ahead of a massive match against Chelsea this weekend.
For Birmingham, it was another strong performance but another close but no cookie, the Blues never far from victory but unable to grasp it.