The Blues secured one point after a goalless draw against Birmingham and a further in a thrilling penalty shoot-out.
To kick-off the season Nick Cushing named Bardsley in goal, shielded by a back four of Gemma Bonner, skipper Houghton, Beattie and Abbie McManus. Keira Walsh took up her defensive midfield role alongside Jill Scott and Caroline Weir. Mel Lawley and Parris were employed on the wings. Nadia Nadim led the line up front.
Both sides flew out of the blocks, and in under 10 minutes City had been awarded two corners. Our summer signing, Weir, stepped up to take both and although the execution of the cross couldn’t be faulted, a light Blue shirt struggled to get on the end of it.
Just moments later and Parris tried her luck with a shot at goal. The Lioness opted to fire an attempt from the corner of the box which curled towards Ann-Katrin Berger’s far post. As the ball approached the goal it began to skew wide, but just for good measure the Birmingham ‘keeper pushed it a few inches further out of danger.
As things looked to calm down a little, the home side sent Bardsley’s – and the travelling City fans’-hearts racing when Ellen White sprinted forward and managed to intercept Beattie’s back pass to our goalkeeper. Luckily for City, her first touch pushed the ball out wide and allowed Nick Cushing’s side enough time to get into position and re-focus.
Few chances fell for either side as the first period continued. Both City and Birmingham were struggling to create any clear-cut chances and Houghton’s free-kick was one of the only stand-out moments. Our captain stepped up and her attempt at goal looked destined for the bottom corner, but Berger was alert and darted immediately to the floor to deny Steph of a goal.
After the break both sides turned it up a gear.
It looked as though the home side were about to break deadlock when White, once again, burst into the box, collected the ball and fired a thunderous strike towards goal. Bardsley launched into the air, but her fingertips couldn’t quite reach it, but luckily for our ‘keeper it flew over the crossbar, be it only a few inches.
After a flurry in the opening minutes of the second period the pace decreased as both sides continued to hunt for the opening goal of the match.
As the minutes ran away it became evident that the extra point would be up for grabs in a penalty shoot-out.
First up, Birmingham’s Aoife Mannion stepped up to convert from the spot followed by Parris. It was even after just one shot each until Bardsley superbly saved Lucy Staniforth’s effort. Game on.
After the crucial block, Weir, Emslie, Houghton and Birmingham’s Kerys Harrop, Lucy Quinn and White added to each side’s tally. City were leading and needed just one more goal. McManus fired a high shot which looked to maybe fly over the crossbar, but Berger got a hand to it to ensure the penalty didn’t count.
Just moments later Birmingham’s Sarah Mayling’s shot hit the crossbar and cannoned into the stands. Again, with just a goal standing between us and an extra point Walsh took her strike from the spot, but Berger cleanly saved it.
City were lucky as Hayley Ladd overshot her attempt. It was down to Jen Beattie.
The Scot sent a bullet-like strike past Berger to see us awarded two precious points going into our next group stage clash.
Nick Cushing’s side welcome Leicester City to the Academy Stadium for the second group stage match of the Continental Cup on Sunday 26 August, kick-off at 3pm (BST).