FOOTBALL: WEMBLEY-bound Blues endured a frustrating Women’s Super League curtain raiser as a series of half chances came and went in a 0-0 stalemate against Sunderland.
England’s Ellen White pelted the crossbar shortly after half-time and Paige Williams had a close-range effort headed off the line by Lucy Staniforth with 15 minutes to play.
There was a brief flurry at both ends late on but in truth, neither side convinced in the attacking third and shared the spoils in this opening Spring Series fixture.
Blues manager Marc Skinner made six changes from the team that had kicked off Monday’s FA Cup semi-final success over Chelsea.
Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley, Andrine Hegerberg, Abbeyleigh Stringer, Charlie Wellings, Chloe Peplow and Emily Westwood lined up with cup starters Aoife Mannion, Sarah Mayling, Freda Ayisi and Ellie Brazil among the substitutes.
The hosts dominated the first half and were in complete control at the back, albeit without finding enough tempo to seriously trouble the visitors.
Jess Carter’s driven cross from the right just was flicked on by White with Wellings’s looping nod dropping over the angle of post and bar.
Another flick on from White found Wellings to lash over on the half volley midway through the half, while a smart one-two between Peplow and marauding defender Westwood ended with the former being thwarted by Stephanie Bannon’s block tackle.
Dominique Bruinenberg shot over from 20 yards in a rare attack for Sunderland before Paige Williams chanced her arm from 25 yards, narrowly clearing the crossbar as the half came to an end.
Blues began the second half brightly with a slick exchange involving Westwood and Wellings setting Hegerberg free down the left, only for White to be crowded out at the near post.
White then jinked her way into some space but having opened up, her shot cruelly bounce back off the face of the woodwork in the 54th minute.
Staniforth’s free-kick and a near-post effort from Victoria Williams kept Blues on their toes before matters became stretched during the last knockings.
Paige Williams’s close call was followed by Staniforth being the victim of an unkind bounce while trying to get a telling touch on Abby Holmes’s fierce low delivery for Sunderland.
A quick counter from that attack ended with Blues substitute Sarah Mayling scuffing a shot into the arms of keeper Anke Preuss with six minutes to go.
In one final Blues push, Freda Ayisi’s cross from the left was glanced towards goal by White in added time but Preuss gathered comfortably.