Report: Blues 0 Leicester City 0 (5-6)
BLUES exited the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup after a 6-5 penalty shootout defeat to Leicester City.
The match finished 0-0 after 90 minutes despite both teams creating a number of openings with Blues midfielder Mollie Green seeing a first-half penalty saved.
The match was a Group E decider with both teams knowing victory would seal a place in the quarter-finals while defeat would likely mark the end of the road.
Carla Ward made four changes from the 3-0 league defeat at Arsenal on Sunday.
Harriet Scott missed out through injury and was replaced in the backline by Gemma Lawley with Georgia Brougham shifting across to full-back.
Lucy Whipp and Chloe McCarron lined up in midfield, while Emma Kelly replaced Destiney Toussaint in the front three.
Just two of the starters – Rebecca Holloway and Whipp – began the 5-1 win at Leicester in this competition in October 2019.
After a cagey opening Blues threatened when Brougham forced her way into the box and tried to catch out Kirstie Levell at her near post only for the Leicester stopper to parry away.
The visitors had a glorious chance moments later, Charlie Devlin dashing in behind after a looped ball forward had deceived Holloway but her dinked finish on the run dropped off target.
That buoyed Leicester with Tash Flint flashing wide and Devlin tamely finishing a good chance after a cushioned touch from Paige Bailey-Gayle.
The Blues penalty arrived nine minutes before half-time when Whipp’s drive from the edge of the box was handled by Remi Allen, but Green’s low effort was well read and shovelled around the post by Levell.
Leicester had enjoyed a decent half up to that point and threatened to take the lead from a penalty box skirmish but shots from Flint and Devlin were charged down at the last moment.
And there was still time for an even better opening before the interval, Bailey-Gayle rolled Lachante Paul clear in added time but the finish was straight at Hannah Hampton with so much of the goal to hit.
Connie Scofield and Christie Murray were both introduced to the midfield at half-time and added more impetus, particularly to Blues’ attacking threat.
A tightly-marked Walker spun on the edge of box and went close with a shot on the turn, while there was a cracking chance for Bailey-Gayle at the other end who fired over when in the clear on the hour mark.
Esmee de Graaf’s surge down the right ended with a cutback for Allen whose shot from the edge of the box was straight at Hampton.
Blues' hearts were in mouths when Bailey-Gayle headed a loose ball from a corner towards goal with Hampton out of the equation but Holloway was on hand to clear off the line.
Another Walker shot on the spin and Murray’s far-post drive brought smart stops from Levell but Leicester had more chances after that purple patch.
Bailey-Gayle was lofted in behind but scuffed her shot across goal on the run and Millie Farrow had a decent chance only for her shot from a pullback to be blocked by Rachel Corsie.
Walker had a crisp shot repelled right at the death but the deadlock would not be broken.
All 10 penalties were successful before sudden death when Scofield rattled the crossbar and substitute Aimee Everett coolly rolled in the decider to bag top spot in Group E for Leicester.
Blues miss out on being one of the best two runners-up on average goal difference per game having matched Reading’s two points per game ratio in the group stages. Durham’s points per game ratio is higher than that of Blues and the Royals.
Blues: Hampton, Brougham, Lawley, Corsie, Holloway, McCarron, Whipp (Murray, h-t), Green (Scofield, h-t), Kelly (Toussaint, 83), Napier, Walker.
Unused subs: None.
Booking: McCarron 73.
Scored penalties: Murray, Walker, Hampton, Brougham, Corsie.
Leicester: Levell, Smith, Tierney (Blanchard, 90+4), Plumptre, de Graaf (Everett, 90+4), Barker, Allen, Devlin, Bailey-Gayle, Paul, Flint (Farrow, 65).
Unused subs: Cataldo, Riglar, Howard, Fergusson, Thomas, Wood.
Bookings: Barker 35, Tierney 66.
Scored penalties: Allen, Devlin, Smith, Plumptre, Blanchard, Everett.
Referee: Sarah Garratt.