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Title race opens again as leaders Arsenal suffer shock 2-0 defeat to relegation-haunted Brum

Birmingham 2-0 Arsenal

Birmingham City leapfrogged Leicester at the bottom of the Barclays FA Women's Super League after stunning leaders Arsenal 2-0.

First-half goals from Libby Smith and Veatriki Sarri handed interim boss Darren Carter a first win in charge and the huge upset also marked a first home league triumph since October 2019 and a first league win since November 2020 for the home side.

Smith had put Carter’s side into a surprise lead after only three minutes when the striker coolly slotted the ball past Manuela Zinsberger after she had beaten Simone Boye for pace following a delicate pass from Lucy Quinn.

The Gunners struggled throughout the contest with Jordan Nobbs blazing well over from outside the penalty area before top scorer Vivianne Miedema struck a weak effort at Emily Ramsey.

Jonas Eidevall’s side saw things get even worse when they fell two behind before the half-time whistle.

Smith’s front post flick was read well by Jen Beattie, but Sarri was there to arrow the ball into the top corner to double the hosts’ lead against an out-of-sorts Arsenal.

The goal was the midfielder’s first since April and her first of the season.

Arsenal squandered several chances in the second half as they made a bid to mount a fightback.

Kim Little’s effort from close range was blocked well by Gemma Lawley before Miedema shot right at Ramsey in the box.

Despite the abundance of quality in the Arsenal ranks, Birmingham defended resolutely to record a first clean sheet since January last year and move one point above Leicester into 11th in the WSL after the Foxes lost 1-0 at Reading.

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Birmingham’s interim manager Darren Carter said: “Libby’s one player that, since I’ve arrived at the club, in the games I have been desperate for her to score. As a number nine that’s your ultimate job but what Libby gives to the team in her energy and work-rate, she is so selfless and that’s her qualities.

“You just want her to add goals to that and I thought it was a fantastic finish. The runs that she makes in behind, she’s going to get in and get chances, it’s just about showing that composure. All game long, she’s our point of attack and she led the line well today. I’m delighted for her.

“If you can’t take confidence from beating a team like Arsenal, the league leaders, I’m struggling to find another reason.

“The players will enjoy it tonight, that winning feeling hasn’t been there for so long. Going forward, they’ve gone toe-to-toe with the best team in the league. Not only have we hung on, we’ve imposed ourselves, got into their final third and created chances.”

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall said: “What we didn’t do today was what we have done well all season: to anticipate the moments and work together as a team. They are a direct team and we clearly didn’t defend those situations together as a team and we got very separated as a team.

“Some players running, some players jogging and some players walking to get into positions. Even when we won the ball, we were so spread out. We weren’t well positioned for good options and when we were breaking through, we were so slow at getting numbers into the box. We didn’t do those things as a team.

“They did exactly the same against Manchester City and it doesn’t help when we have the start that we do with them scoring. We know they are a hard-working team and they’re not an easy team to break down when they are in a medium-low block.

“The supporters were amazing. Today we weren’t performing well but they still gave us that support, that makes it more frustrating. We need to focus on ourselves and we need to accept that we need to do the basics well again."

Birmingham City: (5-4-1): 21 Emily Ramsey; 14 Jamie Finn, 30 Gemma Lawley, 4 Louise Quinn, 3 Harriet Scott, 25 Rebecca Holloway; 11 Jade Pennock, 10 Christie Murray, 7 Veatriki Sarri; 17 Lucy Quinn; 12 Libby Smith Substitutes: Sarah Ewens for Smith 90 Substitutes not used: 8 Lisa Robertson, 19 Lucy Whipp, 22 Eleanor Ryan-Doyle, 27 Abbi Jenner, 29 Lucy Jones, 32 Abi Cowie, 36 Louanne Worsey, 38 Mikalyla Wildgoose Goals: Smith 3, Sarri 42 Bookings: Scott 86 Arsenal: (4-3-3): 1. Manuela Zinsberger; 16 Noelle Martiz, 20 Simone Boye, 5 Jennifer Beattie, 15 Katie McCabe; 12 Frida Maanym, 8 Jordan Nobbs, 10 Kim Little; 9 Beth Mead, 23 Mana Iwabuchi, 11 Vivianne Miedema, Substitutes: Lotte Wubben-Moy for Boye 63 Substitutes not used: 13 Lia Walti, 22 Viktoria Schnarderbeck, 24 Fran Stenson, 29 Teyah Goldie Bookings: Iwabuchi 60, Miedema 79 Referee: Lucy May Attendance: 532


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