A winter signing from Lincoln LFC, Remi Allen scored on her Birmingham City LFC – and European – debut to secure a 1-0 UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final first-leg win against Arsenal LFC at St Andrew's and told UEFA.com: "It was like a dream come true."
Birmingham will take a lead to London on Sunday thanks to a well-earned clean sheet by a defence which included 16-year-old debutant Jess Carter, out of position at left-back. She was thrilled to deny some of her childhood role models while manager David Parker praised a perfectly executed game plan. That was something with which returning Arsenal defender Casey Stoney as well as manager Shelley Kerr, whose team was much changed since November's round of 16, concurred.
Remi Allen, Birmingham midfielder
That was a key aim of ours, to keep a clean sheet, and we managed to nick a goal as well. So all in all, a near-perfect game for us. I'm obviously delighted to score the goal and get the win, to do it in the manner that we did is great. We are just really happy but we can't rest on that, we've got a second leg to play, so we've got to keep focused.
Our team shape was spot on but Arsenal have world-class players and you know if you give them an inch then they are going to create something so it's just about focusing and being ready for the next game.
I've played with Chelsea [Weston, who set up the goal] since I was 15 so she's got great understanding of the game, so she can read me and I can read her. She put it on a plate for me so the plaudits have got to go to her as well. I'm happy to score any goal, whether it comes from one yard or wherever, so I'm dead pleased. I really loved [playing at St Andrew's], it was like a dream come true.
Jess Carter, Birmingham defender
It was a tough game but we did well, we came out with a result, which is what we wanted, not to concede. It wasn't easy for me but I am very proud. The support from all the other team-mates helped me get through the game and made sure I was in the right places at the right time, so it is a lot down to them as well, to help me out.
Quite a few of the Arsenal girls when I was younger I looked up to. They were role models to me and I had to play against them with the other three defenders, and we were solid. They didn't get through us. I thought we were brilliant. I was a bit nervous in the morning but it was really exciting, we just wanted to get out there and show everyone what we could do, and we did it.
We are going to hopefully go there on Sunday, stick to the game plan and show everyone what we can do, get some more goals and go on to win it.
David Parker, Birmingham manager
I just think the game plan was executed to the absolute T. Our girls deserve a lot of credit, we knew Arsenal's strengths and how they were going to play, and we've had to dig in and restrict them to very few chances, and we've been fortunate enough to take ours. It possibly could have been more.
[Not conceding an away goal] was crucial. It was something we'd talked about as a coaching staff, and reiterated to the players about game management. About how we were going to go about it and not giving Arsenal that 'double bubble', in terms of a goal. We know now if we go there and nick an away goal, they've got to get three and that will really swing the tie.
You know what you are getting from Remi [Allen], she is a seven out of ten every single game. And occasionally she pops up with a ten, and she's done that tonight. We knew when we signed her we could get goals from her. She's been isolated as a holding player, we know we can get her box to box and we've given her a bit more licence and dropped her into a [number] ten tonight on occasion. She met that cross beautifully.
Casey Stoney, Arsenal defender
I thought we underperformed massively. Credit to Birmingham, they obviously had a game plan, they stuck to it, it paid off for them. But Arsenal's standards we didn't play nowhere near well enough today and to be honest we got what we deserved – a 1-0 defeat. But it could have been worse, 1-0 is always not a bad scoreline to take back to our place and we've got to do any better than we did tonight to make sure we have any chance of getting through to the semi-final.
I'd like to think [the new players] haven't impacted on the team in a negative way. It's going to take time to gel, yes, but they've had new players in their team and they've got a lot of kids in their team so what we've brought in is experience. We've got no excuses tonight. I'm not going to stand here and say there was any reason for us to play this way, we just played poorly. We've got a lot of work to do between now and Sunday to put it right and make sure we get a result.
This is what it's about, nights like tonight, to be able to be part of the Champions League. But I don't want to be 'part of the Champions League'; I want to be winning games. I need to make sure I give a better performance on Sunday and as do all of us to give ourselves the best chance of winning.
The young players like [Jess Carter] that got player of the match, I've worked with her in the [England] U19s not so long ago, she didn't play left-back then, so she's come on tonight and given a fantastic performance. They've got some young players, we've got some great young players in our side, so it bodes well for English football. We need to make sure we get those young players on form on Sunday.
Shelley Kerr, Arsenal manager
I thought Birmingham deserved their win. I didn't think we played as well as we could. We had lots of possession, and to be fair Birmingham defended really well and they had better chances in the game. They deserved their 1-0 win.
A huge boost [to have Kelly Smith starting], if we were to get a goal it was going to come from Kelly or [Shinobu] Ohno who, for a first game, I thought she was excellent. Those two looked really dangerous going forward. But you need to play well as a team, and we started the game very well, we put Birmingham under pressure. But they grew into the game and credit to their young players especially, they did exceptionally well.
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