SECOND half substitute Coral-Jade Haines netted a dramatic 120th minute winner to fire Blues Ladies into the semi-finals of the Continental Tyres Cup with a 1-0 home victory over Liverpool, reports Liam Moakes.
After a hard fought 90 minutes and 29 further goalless minutes in extra time, Haines got on the end of Jess Carter’s right-wing cross to coolly convert into the bottom left corner from eight yards to send Blues players, staff and supporters into raptures.
Dave Parker’s Blues side ended the game strongly and looked the fitter side in extra time but it was the Reds who looked the sharper in the first half before a tense second period could not separate the sides.
Liverpool looked sharp from the outset and in the sixth minute might have taken the lead when Coombs slipped Caroline Weir in on goal but she fired into the side-netting when well placed eight yards out.
Midway through the first half, Natasha Harding saw a deflected strike drift inches wide and seconds later the visitors came even closer when Laura Coombs curled a fine 25-yard strike against the right-hand post beyond the despairing dive of Ann-Katrin Berger.
Blues’ best chance of the half fell to Andrine Hegerberg but her fierce shot was charged down after neat approach play from Charlie Wellings and Mel Lawley.
Two minutes into the second half the Reds almost took the lead when Harding found space in the inside left channel and skipped around Berger but Carter made a superb hooked clearance off the line.
Haines then entered the action as a 68th minute substitute in place of 17-year-old Connie Scofield and she looked lively as she neatly linked the play and provided a vital spark in midfield, however the hosts were unable to find a way past the Liverpool back line.
The most entertaining period of the match was to prove extra time as the game became stretched and it was substitutes Haines and Chloe Peplow who starred for the hosts.
Peplow might have scored at the back post in the 94th minute from Hegerberg’s corner but failed to gamble when doing so would have left a simple header to score.
Five minutes later Haines showed admirable strength in the box to roll her marker and fire a right-footed strike towards the top right corner and force a superb save from Siobhan Chamberlain.
Soon afterwards Harding might have done better than fire across the face of Berger’s goal, leaving Shanice Van de Sanden with too tight an angle to score at the back post.
Five minutes into the second period of extra time Carter made an even better goalline block at full stretch to deny substitute Emma Lundh from point blank range following a cut back from fellow replacement Niamh Charles.
In the 117th minute Blues’ Kerys Harrop fired a firm 25-yard strike towards goal which forced Chamberlain to concede a corner but, when the set piece was cleared, a penalty shoot-out appeared to be looming.
However, in literally the dying seconds, Carter marauded down the right and centred for Haines to convert and book the hosts’ place in the last four and extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 12 matches with nine clean sheets in the process.
Blues will now travel to WSL2 outfit London Bees in semi-final of the competition on the weekend of September 3/4.