By Isaac Barrington
Birmingham WLV Women pulled off a true underdog feat, beating London Helvecia Ladies 4-2 in the grand final of the Women’s Tier 1 FA National Futsal Series.
There was a full house of spectators at The University of Wolverhampton to see Birmingham WLV Women take to the stage in the final which was broadcast live on BT Sport.
Birmingham were without their top scorer and talismanic figure Alisha Miller, who scored 22 goals in 15 games on route to the final, and was certainly a massive loss to Ikhlaq Hussain’s team. Helvecia were placed as firm favourites going into the game, but the competitive nature, particularly of the previous meeting between the two teams, would give Birmingham hope of having their name engraved on the illustrious silverware.
Birmingham’s dreams of a lightning fast start to the final soon became reality, when captain Angelique Morley was played through on goal neatly by Lindsay Glover, and the skipper’s right footed strike picked out the bottom corner.
However, it didn’t take long for Helvecia to find the net themselves, and the London side were level when Nicole Pepper turned home a diagonal pass which was fizzed towards the second post.
Helvecia then began to assert their dominance on the final, with chances for both Tune and Alvarez going begging. Despite this, it was Birmingham who had the best opportunity to score the game’s third goal. Glover was cynically brought down in front of goal before she rattled the woodwork with a fiercely struck effort not long after.
Level at the break, it was still all to play for moving into the final 20 minutes. The second period began in similar style to the first, with Birmingham once again starting brightly and soon getting their reward to show for it. Kate Evans restored Birmingham’s lead just 4 minutes into the second half, beating Grimmond at her far post to breach the usually so resolute Helvecia defence for a second time.
Back behind, London Helvecia stepped up the pressure, but a string of fine stops by Birmingham’s Portuguese shot-stopper Adriana Caboz kept the lead intact.
Having ridden the wave of Helvecia pressure well, Birmingham caught them cold on the counter attack, and gave themselves a cushion, with Weston smashing a rocket of a shot into the top corner to spark wild Birmingham celebrations and put distance between the teams on the scoreboard.
Despite this though, the job at that juncture was far from complete. Having tested the waters with the fly goalkeeper tactic earlier in the game, Helvecia looked to utilise this a lot more regularly as their desperation to find a route back into the game grew. A London Helvecia timeout nearly stirred up a comeback, with Selin Buyukgiray scoring from close range to give Helvecia hope.
However, after a flurry of long-range strikes to find the now unguarded Helvecia net all dropped agonisingly wide, Caboz finally put the game to bed when she struck the sweet spot and found the net with a perfectly-struck drop-kick style goal, with just over a minute left to play.
London Helvecia Ladies’ 100% record was ruined at the final hurdle, and it was Birmingham WLV who stole the crown in style. Coach Ikhlaq Hussain said after the trophy lift, “This is not the work of one day, this is the work of 20 years, these players have achieved what’s been built up by the club for so long.”