It was a night to remember under the floodlights of Princes Park, as the London City Lionesses claimed victory over visiting Birmingham City, following a nail-biting penalty shootout.
From the outset, London City set about imposing themselves on their WSL opponents, who simply couldn’t cope with the speed of the Lionesses’ play.
A well-taken shot from outside the box from Annie Rossiter acted as an early warning to Birmingham of the threat from the home side, going forward.
But the visitors did prove to have moments of danger in them, with Shae Yanez being kept busy between the sticks, especially when Eleanor Ryan-Doyle was lurking in the box to get on the end of a number of balls being sent in.
London City continued to be the dominant force in the first half though, with Birmingham struggling to play out from the back in the face of City’s pressing game.
Indeed, it was from such determination that the Lionesses got their breakthrough just before the end of the first half, when Karin Muya won the ball back just on the edge of the area.
Muya then proceeded to do what she’s been doing all season for London City; weaving her way through the outstretched legs of the Birmingham defenders, she was able to get through on goal and then calmly slot the ball home.
In the second half, City continued where they had left off, dominating possession, and continuing to cause problems for Birmingham.
Yet again this dominance produced results, this time from Amy Rodgers, who picked up the ball from just outside the box, took a touch, picked her spot, and then fired it past the outstretched Birmingham keeper.
But the goal seemed to spur the WSL outfit, with Darren Carter’s side now fighting back, and getting their first goal of the game with 10 minutes left to play, when Ryan-Doyle got on the end of a pass across the face of goal.
Then just a few minutes later, Ryan-Doyle got her second of the game, picking up on a free kick to slot it just past the outstretched glove of Yanez.
Some exceptional last-gasp defending from the Lionesses in the last few minutes ensured the score stayed level and confirmed the penalty shootout.
For the first few rounds it seemed like nothing was going to separate the two teams from the spot, but whilst the Lionesses had little trouble getting past the Birmingham keeper, Yanez proved too much for the visitors, saving two penalties to give London City the win, and the extra point.
Speaking after the dramatic shootout, manager Melissa Phillips was full of praise for her team’s performance.
“I think we played really well, scored two really good goals and executed the game plan,” she said.
“The game ebbed and flowed as it's been a few weeks since our most recent game for many in the line up tonight. So, there's bound to be some moments that we have to work through.
“But we learned a lot about ourselves and ultimately I think we put in a really solid performance against the team in the WSL yet again.”
Phillips was also keen to highlight the vital role played by the fans inside Princes Park, who helped create such an electric atmosphere.
“Credit to the Academy girls within London City,” remarked Phillips, “they've been fantastic all season long, coming out, cheering on the girls, being fans of the team. It's been a great opportunity for our girls to be mentors and models of the opportunities that those girls will have in the future.”
Next up for the London City Lionesses, it’s back to the hunt for promotion, as they prepare to take on Bristol City Women at Princes Park on Sunday.
“The most important thing is that we compete, we put in a good performance, and we stick together,” said Phillips.
“That's the core of who we are and we're going to have to leave everything on the pitch for the match on Sunday to come away with a result.”
London City take on Bristol City at 2:00pm on the 19th of December at Princes Park. Click the link to get your tickets now!