Youthful Birmingham beat Arsenal to semis

Arsenal LFC 0-2 Birmingham City LFC (agg: 0-3)
Kirsty Linnett and Remi Allen scored to take Birmingham into their first semi-final against Tyresö FF.

Birmingham City LFC’s Karen Carney said that “the sky is the limit” after her side upset Arsenal LFC to make it into the semi-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time, while Arsenal’s Kelly Smith admitted that the “better team” had won.

A virtually flawless display from Birmingham City LFC secured the club's first ever spot in the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Arsenal LFC.

Already 1-0 up from the all-English first leg on Monday, Birmingham added two more before half-time through Kirsty Linnett and Remi Allen. European debutants Tyresö FF now await David Parker's side, ensuring maiden finalists in Lisbon on 22 May.

Birmingham nearly had an early away goal when Emma Byrne could only parry a Linnett cross and Karen Carney hit the rebound onto the outside of the post. Indeed, Arsenal, still missing influential midfielder Jordan Nobbs, were on the back foot for most of the opening stages, though Shinobu Ohno did force a tenth-minute Rebecca Spencer save from the Gunners' first shot on target of either leg.

Spencer, like Linnett and Karen Carney formerly of Arsenal, had to dive full length to deny Ohno after a Danielle Carter effort had been blocked, but Birmingham's pressure produced a goal on 25 minutes. A through ball released the always-dangerous Linnett and she coolly slotted past her former club-mate Emma Byrne.

Soon after, Birmingham had another as Allen, who scored on her debut in the first leg, turned in Carney's ball across goal following Linnett's dummy. Arsenal now needed four, and the Birmingham defence – average age 20 – were allowing them nothing.

Arsenal introduced Freda Ayisi early in the second half to try and turn the game and indeed improved. Just before the hour, Kelly Smith's long-range free-kick hit the bar, Ohno putting the rebound over. Ayisi forced a Spencer save after Carter's run, and the keeper also denied Rachel Yankey, but the last chance was at the other end, Jade Moore shooting wide.

Birmingham welcome Tyresö on 19 or 20 April, with the return in Sweden the following weekend. As for 2007 winners Arsenal, they must now contemplate a season without European football after 11 straight runs to at least the quarter-finals.

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