A bitterly cold, windy, and snowy afternoon greeted the University of Birmingham Women’s second team as they hosted Oxford University’s First eleven in the semi-final of the cup. Oxford have had a relative easy cup run heading into this fixture which includes a 22-0 win over Nottingham Trent’s fourth team. Whilst Birmingham have not been as free scoring as their opponents, they eliminated De Montfort’s first team in the previous round with a comprehensive 4-0 victory.
Birmingham began the game with a 4-2-3-1 formation and were up against a 4-3-3 from their visitors and it was Oxford who began the game on the front foot. An immediate high press pegged Birmingham backed and panicked them into making sloppy decisions. An early chance for the pacey Oxford forward saw her hit the post before Birmingham had the ball out of their half. Oxford were relentless for the opening ten minutes or so, but Birmingham began to gradually regain their composure. As began to play their way up the pitch, they managed to win a free kick around thirty-five yards out from goal. Chelsea Hunter stood over the ball and launched it into the box, and with help from the strong Siberian winds, lobbed the keeper and found the back of the net! A bizarre goal that came from nowhere and against the run of play saw Birmingham 1-0 up.
The goal did not change the tone of the match very much as Oxford continue to press high to try and unsettle the Birmingham backline. Birmingham won themselves another free kick from a similar position around twenty minutes into the first half. Once again, Chelsea stood over it and she managed to score again! Another launch into the box saw the ball end up in the back of net via a deflection off the Oxford centre back and Birmingham had a 2-0 lead!
However, that goal did not stop Oxford as they came forward yet again. This time they had a long range free kick from around forty yards out. Surely not right? The Oxford number five took the kick as it went long; it took the Birmingham defence and keeper by surprise as it landed in the top right corner of the net. Oxford had pulled one back and in under half an hour, the game had seen three goals, all from long range free kicks lobbing the keeper! Remarkable stuff!
The goals did not seem to affect the mentality of the players as Oxford continued to come forward and Birmingham continued to battle at the back. The pacey forward for Oxford found herself one on one, the goal at her mercy, but struck her shot straight at the keeper. What a miss! That action rounded off the first half where Birmingham led 2-1.
The second half begun as the first half did with Oxford attacking yet again. Some short, quick passes in the final third saw Oxford create havoc amongst the Birmingham back line. After a succession of corners, the Oxford pressure finally found a way through as the right winger pounced on a loose ball to fire home low in the far corner of the net. Oxford had equalised within five minutes of the second half and the game was theirs to take. They had their tails up and back up the pitch they came in search of their third goal. The Oxford midfielder cut apart the Birmingham defence to put the Oxford winger through on goal and she did not disappoint! Oxford led 3-2 with over half an hour still to play.
Birmingham had squandered a two-goal lead and to be honest they had not played well up to this point. On came two fresh midfielders for Birmingham as they changed to a 3-5-2 in search of an equaliser. Birmingham were enjoying more possession but were unable to break the Oxford defence down. As Birmingham committed more players forward, Oxford launched a counter attack which saw the forward lob the keeper with five minutes to go. Oxford led 4-2 and that final goal was the killer blow.
As the final whistle went screams of celebration from the Oxford players were heard across Bournbrook and they deserved to book their place in the cup final. This may have not have been the result Birmingham wanted, but I’m sure they’ll take this in their stride as they still have the league to play for which they are more than capable of winning.