After two great weeks in Cyprus - it was a cold return to domestic game with Cardiff City and Birmingham City facing each other in the 5th round tie of Women's FA Cup.
Fourteen days of sunshine and warmth was replaced by cold winds and cloudy weather at the Cardiff City Ladies home ground, as I traveled down to Wales for the start of Birmingham City Ladies FA Cup adventures of 2013.
For once, it wasn't the cozy travel on the team coach - as it was quicker to drive myself down to Cardiff for the game. Arriving there well in time, possibly earlier than most men's games I attend :-) There was time to catch up with few players and backroom staff before the game.
Ground at Cardiff was open, and surrounded by an athletics track - and on a windy day, it felt rather chilly when the sun went away. This also gave the 'nice' challenge to photographing the game in very changeable conditions, one minute it was strong sunshine, then cloudy, then really cloudy and once again strong sunshine. But then again, these are the reasons why photography is such a great job.. it always presents you with a challenge.
Game!! Never know what to expect from seasons first competitive match, and I expected Cardiff to come on strong and take advantage of Birmingham's lack of match practice. Rather even in the opening minutes, but it was Birmingham (can't say Blues, as they we wearing pink!!) who struck first. Rachel Williams back from England duty connected well with a strong header to sink the ball into the Cardiff net.
Cardiff however didn't give up, beautifully struck ball from long way - flew over the stretched Birmingham City keeper to send the Blues into celebrations.. 1-1.
Birmingham kept on pressing and pressing, and had chances to score and extend their lead - but few good saves and woodwork kept the scores at 1-1, until... two more strikes from Williams made it 3-1 and in reality the tie was over there and then.
From my own view - Cardiff gave a good game to Birmingham and did challenge at times very well. Birmingham (as I do follow them around a lot).. few rusty flakes to still shake off before they will fire on all cylinders. Williams up front seemed lively and full of running - from new signings Mel was given a full game to run out and her speed and crosses will delight the Birmingham fans during the season, Katie came on in the second half and could have possibly grabbed a goal herself, but she provided a nice build-up to the third goal. From the 'old faces' defence seemed solid again, and will be tough to break for any WSL team. Midfield .. Jade Moore will give plenty of head-aches (literally ;-) ) to many a WSL player.. and she has earned the re-call to England squad as well. Izzy seemed faster than in previous seasons - so is she the one to give that bit of creativity from the midfield that Birmingham need??
Good start to the season for Birmingham, next up Arsenal.. not in the Conti Cup... but FA Cup on the 31st of March... interesting!!