Sunderland Women lost against Birmingham City Women inside a blustery Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground in the Barclay’s Women’s Championship today.
An early Lily Agg goal separated the sides at half-time before an own goal by Brianna Westrup and a late Jade Moore strike sealed maximum points for the visitors.
Amy Goddard returned to Mel Reay’s starting eleven after recovering from an injury in one of seven changes for the Lasses following their mid-week victory over Blackburn Rovers.
Birmingham came close to taking an early lead on five minutes when Gemma Lawley’s close-range header from Lucy Quinn’s corner sailed over Claudia Moan’s crossbar for a goal kick.
The visitors broke the deadlock on 11 minutes when an unmarked Agg found Moan’s bottom right-hand corner with a well-placed curling effort from the edge of the box.
Natasha Fenton’s set-piece from 20 yards out came close to levelling the scores but Thomas remained alert and got down early inside her six-yard box to gather the ball from danger as Liz Ejupi was well-placed for a simple tap-in.
Mel Reay’s side returned from the interval in determined fashion, midfielder Mollie Rouse superbly controlling Mary McAteer’s cross from the left but drilled her volley inches wide of Thomas’s left-hand post.
The Lasses continued to pile on the pressure, McAteer collecting Westrup’s lofted pass this time before cutting inside and agonisingly curling her effort the wrong side of Thomas’s far post.
The Blues doubled their advantage against the run of play when Sunderland captain Westrup diverted the ball past Moan for an own-goal – the defender’s clearance from Cho-So-Hyun cross wrong-footed Moan before rolling into an empty net.
Sunderland ramped up the pressure in search of a way back into the game, firstly Rouse headed wide from six yards out before the attacker turned provider moments later.
McAteer latched onto Rouse’s through ball before calmly rounding Thomas and directing her effort on target for what looked like a certain goal until Louise Quinn quickly recovered to clear the ball off the line and away from danger.
Birmingham sealed victory on 77 minutes when Moore advanced through on goal and coolly slotted the ball under Moan for the visitor's third of the afternoon.
Minutes later Moan was well positioned to pull off a brilliant point-blank save inside the final 10 minutes to deny Blues’ captain Quinn from close range following Ellie Mason’s free kick.
The Lasses remain third and just one point off top in the Championship as 2023 comes to a close, with Mel Reay’s team returning to action against Southampton in the FA Cup in mid-January.
SAFC Women: Moan, Brown, Goddard, Westrup ©, Ede (Griffiths 72’), Fenton, Rouse, Dear (Watson 83’), Kitching, McAteer, Ejupi (Scarr 60’).
Subs not used: Borthwick, McInnes, Jones, Corbyn, Beer, McCatty.