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Allen gives Birmingham edge against Arsenal

Birmingham City 1-0 Arsenal
A 26th-minute strike from debutant Remi Allen earned Birmingham a deserved quarter-final first-leg edge against their English rivals.

Allen gives Birmingham edge against Arsenal
Allen gives Birmingham edge against Arsenal ©UEFA.com

Birmingham City LFC will travel to Arsenal LFC on Sunday with a slender UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final lead after Remi Allen's strike proved the difference in this first leg.

Allen, on her first Birmingham appearance, scored 26 minutes in for victory against a team the Blues lost to four times in 2013. Still Arsenal, in their 12th European quarter-final to Birmingham's one, will still have hope of turning this inaugural all-English tie to make a fourth straight semi.

Both teams were playing their opening games of 2014 and Arsenal gave debuts to Japan duo Yukari Kinga and Shinobu Ohno, while returning Casey Stoney was playing for the Gunners in Europe for the first time since the inaugural 2001/02 quarter-finals against Toulouse FC. Early on, Stoney made a vital saving tackle on Allen, making her club bow alongside 16-year-old Jessica Carter, who was superb out of position at left-back.

Although Arsenal were on top in the opening exchanges, Josanne Potter brought the home crowd at St Andrew's to life with a free-kick then another shot not far off target. But Birmingham had the lead on 26 minutes, Allen hooking in a cross from long-time England Under-19 colleague Chelsea Weston. It was nearly 2-0 but Stoney cleared off the line from former Arsenal player Kirsty Linnett.

Arsenal's hopes of an equaliser early in the second half were dashed when Aoife Mannion made a superb tackle on Ohno. Linnett continued to impress and from distance forced Emma Byrne to save, before being replaced by Emily Simpkins.

The Gunners sent on Freda Ayisi in their search for an away goal, but the 2007 winners could find no way through a well-organised Birmingham defence. They will need to keep that up for 90 more minutes on Sunday, with Sweden's Tyresö FF almost certainly awaiting the winners next month.