Bristol City Women 2 Aston Villa Women 1
Two breakaway goals from lone striker Ebony Salmon against her old club were enough to send the Women’s Super League’s bottom side through to the last four for the first time since 2012, when they were known as Bristol Academy.
Tanya Oxtoby’s side are winless in the league this season, drawing two and losing eight of their 10 WSL games, and were convincingly beaten 4-0 at home against Aston Villa when the two sides met on the same ground just over one month earlier.
But City’s League Cup form has been excellent, having topped their group with three wins from three, and they were resolute against Villa on Wednesday night, despite missing three key first-team players.
Midfielder Carla Humphrey and goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley both tested positive for Covid-19, while Jemma Purfield also entered 10 days of isolation after coming into close contact with the pair.
Deputising for Baggaley in goal, Norwegian shot-stopper Benedicte Haaland was on top form and did brilliantly to keep out Diana Silva’s first-time effort from six yards out. At the other end, Villa keeper Sian Rogers did well to turn Salmon’s low shot behind to keep the game goalless at half-time.
After the break, there was nothing Rogers could do about Salmon’s two quickfire goals, both of which came on the counter-attack. First the former Villa and Manchester United youngster cut inside Anita Asante and bent a left-footed finish home, before the 19-year-old used her pace to break clear again, confidently take the ball around Rogers and tap in her second moments later.
Villa, who created the better of the chances, were repeatedly thwarted by defensive blocks inside the Bristol City area, while Rogers did well to deny Salmon her hat-trick at the other end.
Villa pushed forward and Denmark striker Stine Larsen – on as a substitute – gave them hope with a well placed downward header, halving the deficit with four minutes to go. But the hosts held on to not just keep their cup dream alive but also give their bid to avoid relegation a much-needed morale boost.
Oxtoby felt the win was one of her side’s better performances, telling Telegraph Sport: “We’ve had our fair share of downs and this is a nice up for the group. For the players to perform the way they have, after the day we have had [with two players testing positive for Covid], says a lot about their character.
“We showed great determination. We had to defend for our lives at times. Villa threw the kitchen sink at us and we took our chances at the other end. I’m really pleased Ebony [Salmon] has got on the scoresheet twice because she works tirelessly and sometimes for no reward.”
Villa boss Gemma Davies was frustrated by her side’s lack of a clinical edge in front of goal, adding: “We played some terrific football tonight. Ultimately we have got to be better in front of goal and be more ruthless, doing things with more purpose in those areas.”
Crystal Palace will host Leicester City in an all-Championship contest on Thursday, in the second of the quarter-finals, before holders Chelsea travel to Manchester City next Wednesday and West Ham United host Durham on Thursday.
Bristol City (4-1-4-1): Haaland; Bryson, Rafferty (Jones, 77), Evans, Allen; Palmer (Layzell, 85); Daniels, Wellings, Logarzo, Bissell; Salmon.
Subs not used: Collis, Harrison, Layzell, Mastrantonio, Jones.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Rogers; Ale, N’Dow, Asante, Siems; Petzelberger, Arthur, Ewers (Iwabuchi, 73), Syme (Hanssen, 73); Silva (Follis 67), Hayles (Larsen 67).
Subs not used: Weiss, West, Haigh, McLoughlin, Haywood.
Referee: Robert Massey-Ellis (West Midlands).
Source: The Telegraph Travels