Leon strikes earns Hammers WSL win over Birmingham

West Ham United women’s team were 1-0 winners over Birmingham City in their first home game of the Barclays FAWSL season on Sunday afternoon.

A low first-half strike from Adriana Leon ensured that the Hammers picked up their first three points of the campaign at a sunny Rush Green.

The win sees West Ham move up to 5th in Women’s Super League after two rounds of fixtures.

There were 1478 Claret and Blue supporters that packed into Rush Green Stadium to watch the women’s team battle past a physical Birmingham side.

The game began at a frenetic pace and the first opening of the afternoon went to the visitors. Winger Abbi Grant broke through on goal down the left-hand side but her prodded effort was denied by West Ham goalkeeper Brosnan, who tipped the ball narrowly round the post.

Shortly after, West Ham should have been in-front. A terrific run from Kate Longhurst in midfield saw her burst through the Blues back-line but her tame effort was easily gathered by the goalkeeper.

The Hammers grew into the first-half and kept possession well. In the 20th minute a driven free-kick by Katharina Baunach was half-cleared to Jacynta Galabadaarachchi on the edge of the box. The 18-year old’s strike was tipped over the bar by Hampton.

Moments later, Leon fired just wide; a clever set-piece routine saw the Canadian find herself in space in the 'D' but she couldn't find the target.

The Hammers pressure finally paid dividends in the 27th minute as Leon found the bottom left corner from close range after excellent work from summer signing Martha Thomas.

Thomas, who was a constant threat in the first half, squared the ball back to the onrushing Longhurst whose blocked shot ricocheted into the path of Leon. The 26-year-old made no mistake converting for her first goal of the season.

The lead was no more than Matt Beard’s side deserved. After making an impressive start on Sunday, the manager would have been happy with his sides' first half efforts.

Despite West Ham’s constant pressure, Birmingham City remained a threat on the counter-attack, sloppy play in the West Ham midfield resulted in Lucy Staniforth having time to shoot but she could only find the side-netting.

After the break it was Birmingham City who began the half on the front-foot, Chloe Arthur fired just wide moments into the second period. West Ham struggled to piece together any lengthy spells of possession just after the restart

Just before the hour mark saw the introduction of Alisha Lehmann. The winger's substitution brought added energy to the West Ham midfield, but the away side continued to keep the Hammers under pressure.

A fine close-range save from Brosnan kept Claudia Walker at bay after the striker had found space in the box. Brosnan continued her bright start to the season and looked comfortable under the high ball as City put numerous crosses into the box.

With just 10 minutes left to play Martha Thomas had a glorious opportunity to double West Ham’s advantage. The forward chased a long Brosnan kick past two defenders but fired narrowly wide with the goalkeeper beaten.

Birmingham City midfielder Staniforth came close to equalising as the clock began to wind down. The midfielders long range effort was deflected onto the bar by Brosnan and bounced back down onto the line where it was smothered by the American.

The experienced back-line of Vetterlein and Flaherty marshalled the Birmingham City attack well as the game headed into added time, West Ham controlled the tempo of the game for large parts of the afternoon despite the physicality of Birmingham.

Matt Beard’s side were able to hang on well under huge pressure to seal their first win of the 19/20 WSL campaign and keep a valuable clean sheet.

West Ham United: Brosnan (GK), Simon (Redisch Kvamme 63’), Flaherty, Thomas, Baunach (Hendrix 83’), Longhurst, Galabadaarachchi (Lehmann 56’), Leon, Cho, Dali, Vetterlein 

Subs not used: Moorehouse (GK), Middag 

Goals: Leon 27'

Birmingham City: Hampton (GK), Mayling, Scott (Whipp 83’), Harrop, Arthur (Scofield 78’), Visalli, Grant
Jordan, Walker, Holloway, Staniforth 

Subs not used: Williams, Brooks (GK), Logan, Goodwin, Rabjohn 

Attendance: 1478