DAVID Parker has challenged his brave Birmingham City Ladies players to bounce back from their recent cup final heartbreak and return as winners in the near future.
The odds were stacked against the Blues as they travelled to the Academy Stadium in the heart of Manchester to take in the Women’s Super League champions, who were backed by over 4,000 ‘home’ supporters.
Parker’s side did not get any stage fright and looked set to take the game to penalties following a goalless 90 minutes but England defender Lucy Bronze scored what proved to be the winning goal with 104 minutes on the clock.
“I feel immensely proud of my team,” said Parker. “We’ve been through a lot as a group.
“You can talk about money and infrastructure but we’ve gone toe-to-toe with Manchester City which is something that no other club has done this season. To take them to extra-time was immense.
“If someone did a money table for the WLS over the past six years, and pound for pound look at what clubs have achieved, we’d be in another universe.
“I would say that financially we our out of the league in terms of Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City but we go toe-to-toe with those teams every single season.
“Each one of our players put in 100 per cent and those are the sort of players we want at this football club. We want players that will player for the badge and die for each other. They’ll give absolutely everything.
“We said in the huddle at the end that these are young girls and they’re going to learn from this – we’ll be back in more cup finals.
“They’ll come back bigger and stronger next time and mentally tougher, that’s what they need to take into the future.”
Goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was the hero for the Blues on Sunday afternoon after pulling off a series of fine saves to keep her side in the final.
Jennifer Beattie and England striker Toni Duggan were both denied by a determined Berger in the first half and after the break Kosovare Asllani found herself clean through but the Blues goalkeeper was alert to come off her line and make a smart save.
The best chance for the Blues came with just four minutes on the clock when striker Kirsty Linnett unleashed a powerful 25-yard shot drifted inches wide of goal.
However the all important goal eventually came in the 104th minute when Bronze directed a looping header into an empty net to break Blues hearts.
“It’s come down to a set piece and like so many cup finals it comes down to those small moments and it’s just happened to fall for them,” Parker added.
“The game plan went a bit ropey in the first half to be honest and it didn’t go quite right so we addressed it at the half-time interval.
“You could see the nerves were getting to Man City especially in the final ten minutes.
“It wasn’t our best display on the ball and maybe that bit more quality would have helped us through but we did what we needed to do and we’d be talking about penalties if it wasn’t for that one small moment.
“They showed that they were good enough to beat them it just wasn’t meant to be.”