Aston Villa women travelled to Crawley to take on Brighton at the Broadfield Stadium last night in the quarter-finals of the Conti-Cup. Villa reached this stage last season and lost out to Arsenal who went on to win the competition, so they were hoping to go at least one step further this year.
Villa were without the injured trio of Dan Turner, Lucy Parker and Lucy Staniforth. Ward was also without the cup-tied trio of Freya Gregory, Noelle Maritz and our latest new signing Miri Taylor. Anna Leat is currently away on International duty with New Zealand and the late announcement that Rachel Daly would be suspended for three games left Villa light in numbers.
Number one goalkeeper Daphne Van Domselaar made her first cup appearance of the season, with the regular back 4 Sarah Mayling, Maz Pacheco, Anna Patten and Rachel Corsie just in front of her. With a very attacking midfield in Jordan Nobbs, Kenza Dali and Simone Magill with a front 3 of Adriana Leon, Kirsty Hanson and Ebony Salmon.
The game started very end to end with both teams having chances at goal but none troubling either goalkeeper and struggling with the final ball into the box. Villa were very attacking and constantly looking to play forward but were struggling to play through the back line with Salmon reluctant to make the runs in behind the defence and not seeming to play like we’re used to seeing her play in recent games.
In the 35th minute, the home side got the breakthrough after Hanson lost the ball by the halfway line allowing Emma Kullburg to run through and play in Tatiana Pinto whose cross was poorly cleared by Corsie. The ball fell straight at the feet of Veatriki Sarri who took her shot from outside the box into the left side of the goal. There was not much DVD could do to prevent that goal from going in but once again it was poor defensively from Villa with Mayling being too slow to close down Sarri before her shot.
Villa responded and were more attacking and looked the more likely to score with Magill, Hanson and Leon all having chances on the Brighton goal. Villa dominated possession for the rest of the half and was very unlucky not to equalise before the half-time whistle.
The Seagulls made a change at half-time to try and reduce the Villa attack that they were facing at the end of the first half. Villa came out fighting for an equaliser and a way back into this game. Magill found herself booked just after the restart by going in too eagerly on a challenge on Vicky Losada. Salmon and Hanson again had chances at goal being saved by Baggaley.
In the 56th minute, Villa was awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, in the centre. Dali took this free kick going for the shot which was deflected to Pacheco in the box whose shot was saved with Salmon slotting home the rebound thinking she had scored the equaliser for Villa before being flagged as offside. Brighton’s free kick was played straight to a Villa player with Magill having a shot just seconds later which was also an easy save for Baggaley.
The visitors continued to press the Brighton defence back and not allow them much time on the ball with Dali, Hanson, Nobbs and Salmon all having chances it was only a matter of time before we scored an equaliser with the home side relying too much on their goalkeeper to remain in this game.
The equaliser came in the 69th minute when Mayling played a ball through the Brighton defence to Dali. The French international crossed the ball into the box first time finding the head of Hanson who scored her first goal of the season. This was a well-deserved goal for Villa and Hanson who was everywhere on the pitch from the first minute.
Straight after this goal, Carla Ward made her first change of the game with Alisha Lehmann coming on to replace Salmon who was non-existent in this game. This meant that Leon was playing through the middle for the rest of the game with Lehmann taking up the right wing spot.
Villa pushed for a winner for the remainder of the game but the Brighton backline stood strong and prevented them from being able to get through Baggaley made multiple brilliant saves to prevent Hanson and shortly after Pacheco from scoring a winner. As it was the knockout stages in the cup this meant that extra time was to come for this game.
In extra time it once again became more end-to-end with neither team creating much due to fatigue beginning to set in for both teams after running themselves into the ground. Just before the end of extra time Ward looked to the bench again, withdrawing Magill for the young Georgia Mullett just a minute before the end and penalties were looming.
Brighton stepped up to take the first penalty with their Captain Losada having her penalty saved by DVD, Mayling then stepped up for Villa also having her penalty saved by Baggaley leaving it still 0-0 after the first round of penalties.
The home side also missed their second penalty with Lee Gueu-Min hitting her shot wide of the post before Leon calmly slotted her penalty into the back of the net making it 0-1 to Villa. T
The 3rd round of penalties was also disappointing for both sides with DVD once again saving a penalty this time from Elisabeth Terland and Villa captain Corsie also having her penalty saved in a very poor penalty shoot-out.
With Brighton yet to score any of their penalties Julia Ziggioti stepped up hoping to be able to keep the home side in this shootout but DVD was once again the hero for Villa saving her 3rd penalty of this shoot-out. With Villa only having to score to progress in the competition Patten stepped up on her 50th appearance for Villa and calmly slotted home to send Villa through to the semi-finals 0-2 winners in the penalty shootout.
DVD showed in this game why she was signed, and proved why she deserves to be number 1 for Villa and her country. This was her best game in a Villa shirt with her deservedly being named player of the match.
There were also good games from Dali, Hanson and Patten. However, I don’t see Salmon forcing her way into the starting 11 after her performance as she just couldn’t seem to get into the game. I would like to see Magill get some starts with Daly out for the next few games.
Villa doesn’t have a game this weekend with it being FA Cup weekend so have time to rest and recover from this game. Our next game sees us face Tottenham away on 18th February.