BIRMINGHAM City Ladies progressed to the semi-finals of the Continental Cup at the expense of Liverpool Ladies on Sunday afternoon.
It took over 120 minutes for a goal to be scored, Coral-Jade Haines coming off the bench and breaking Liverpool hearts in added time of extra time as she prodded home the winner.
The Reds couldn’t be faulted for their efforts in what was an evenly matched cup tie; Laura Coombs had struck the post in the first half, while Natasha Harding and Emma Lundh also went close.
Liverpool boss Scott Rogers kept his side unchanged from last weekend’s comeback victory at Arsenal, sticking with a 4-3-3 formation with Siobhan Chamberlain behind a defence of Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Mandy Van Den Berg.
Coombs was joined in midfield by Kate Longhurst and Katie Zelem; Harding, Shanice Van De Sanden and Caroline Weir led the attack.
The opening five minutes saw both sides tentatively passing the ball about, with neither willing to take a risk and appearing cautious in possession.
Van Den Berg has seen a recall to the starting lineup in recent weeks, due to left back Alex Greenwood facing a spell on the sidelines, and the game sparked into life when the Dutch captain intercepted a pass.
This interception allowed Van Den Berg to play a quick one-two before bombing forward and finding Weir arriving in the box, with the latter firing just wide.
Finding space at the other end of the field, Birmingham forward Kirsty Linnett sent a dangerous ball into the Liverpool area, which was gathered by Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was on alert again moments later as the home side pressed forward earning themselves a corner, which was floated to the edge of the box and was headed tamely towards the Reds ‘keeper.
On either wing Van De Sanden and Harding were the stand out performers for Liverpool, chasing every ball and applying pressure to the defence.
Harding chased one particular ball in the first half that seemed to be a lost cause, the Blues defender certainly believed so, yet the winger reached it on the touchline with lightning quick speed and swung a cross in that connected with Weir, her low hit deflected wide.
From the resulting corner Harding attacked the ball at the back post, but saw her effort blocked.
For large parts of the first half Liverpool were on top, yet ultimately unable to capitalise on the chances created, Coombs went closest hitting the post from 25 yards out, while Harding was prevented from getting a shot in by a well-timed challenge, after a pinpoint pass from Weir.
The Reds were quick out the blocks for the second half, Harding again closing in and clipping a shot that had new Blues ‘keeper Ann Katrin Berger beat, but it was somehow kept out by Jess Carter.
However, chances on the whole were sparse for both sides and it would be extra time before another meaningful opportunity.
Into 30 minutes of extra time with penalties looming, Birmingham piled on the pressure; a set piece glancing across the face of goal and Chamberlain at full stretch to keep Haines’ hit from reaching the top corner.
At the midway stage Niamh Charles entered the action in place of Van De Sanden and the youngster made an immediate impact, impressively beating her marker to cut the ball back up the box towards Lundh – who had entered the fray for Coombs earlier.
Lundh arrived unmarked but could only watch as her low drive was blocked on the line.
Straight back up at the other end, Haines let a shot fly from outside the box that again had Chamberlain diving to keep out.
Not long after the assistant referee had held up the board to show one additional minute at the end of the 120, Haines finally broke the deadlock amidst a sea of bodies in the area to tap over the line from yards out.
Liverpool were out of the Cup with almost the last kick of the game and face just league games between now and the end of the campaign, with the aim surely being to move back into the top half of the table – the Reds currently sit fifth on 16 points, four behind Birmingham with a game in hand.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray (Hodson), Bonner (C), Ingle, Van Den Berg, Coombs (Charles), Longhurst, Zelem, Harding, Van De Sanden (Lundh), Weir
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Natasha Harding