FOOTBALL: BIRMINGHAM City Ladies suffered late heartache in their WSL1 opener as Jodie Taylor’s injury time penalty secured maximum points for the ten-player hosts.
Marc Skinner’s Blues had looked on course for a superb away win when they led 2-1 with just six minutes plus injury time remaining, only for Lisa Evans to fire home an equaliser before Taylor netted the winner from 12 yards following a debatable handball decision against Meaghan Sargeant.
England striker Ellen White had twice put Blues ahead with superb finishes from classy Andrine Hegerberg assists and was only denied the chance to make it 3-1 with just ten minutes remaining when substitute Louise Quinn tripped the forward who was clean through on goal.
However, it was Arsenal who reacted best to the red card and their efforts were rewarded in the cruellest of fashions from the visitors’ perspective.
Arsenal made a blistering start to the game and only wasteful finishing from England forward Jodie Taylor denied them an early lead.
Twice within a minute Taylor should have scored, but first she fired wide at the far post from Beth Mead’s left-wing cross and then she struck the left-hand post from close range following Leah Williamson’s clever pass.
Blues took full advantage of their let-off in the 12th minute when Hegerberg span on the halfway line and sent a superb ball into the path of White who fired an impressive left-footed strike beyond Sari Van Veenendaal.
The Gunners levelled ten minutes before the break when Taylor finally found her shooting boots, slipping the ball beyond Ann-Katrin Berger from Jessica Samuelsson’s neat pass.
Blues felt they should have been awarded a penalty in the first minute of the second half when Paige Williams’ free kick caused confusion in the home defence and Sargeant’s shirt appeared to be pulled, but referee Abi Marriott waved play on.
Six minutes later Mead crashed a left-footed strike against the near post but, unlike the first half, Blues had decent control and regained the lead in the 59th minute when Emma Follis and Hegerberg linked superbly on the right before the latter set White in on goal to arrow a brilliant right-footed strike into the far corner.
Another Williams free kick caused more panic and White was crowded out before she could make it 3-1.
Then followed the red card drama and Arsenal recovery and Blues were left to wonder what might have been.
Skinner’s side will bid to bounce back at home to Everton Ladies next Sunday (12.30pm).