Birmingham’s Sarri grabs vital draw with last-minute goal against Aston Villa

A stunning curling free-kick in the sixth-minute of added time earned Birmingham a crucial point against their local rivals Aston Villa in the battle to avoid relegation from the Women’s Super League.

Veatriki Sarri, who joined the club in January from Sheffield United, following the route of the Birmingham manager, Carla Ward, was engulfed by teammates and Ward joined the pile-up that had shifted to the edge of the pitch.

Ward said: “Villa were the better team for large parts but the fact that we find a way tells you that this group has got character, it’s got desire, it’s got everything you need. I said at the start of the season, I said it all year, ‘no one gives us a chance’, but these players do. I do. The staff do.

“Honestly, I love working with them because they just don’t give up. They don’t want to roll over. Hence my knee-slide to join in with them at the end.

“I think we’re there [safety]. I’m not going to lie. West Ham have got to play Villa at the weekend. If they both get a point, they both stay below us. If one wins, the other one stays below us. Whichever one loses then has to beat Manchester City or Arsenal, so I think we’re there, barring an absolute miracle.”

The point keeps Birmingham in ninth, a point above West Ham, two points above Villa and three points away from bottom-placed Bristol City with two games to play.

The 18-year-old former Birmingham midfielder Freya Gregory scored her first professional goal inside half an hour to give Villa the lead until Sarri’s effort floated over everyone to sneak in at the far post.

Next week Villa play West Ham while Bristol City and Birmingham play Manchester United and Manchester City respectively. On the final day of the season Villa face Arsenal away, Birmingham play Tottenham, West Ham play Manchester City and Bristol City play Brighton.

Arsenal moved three points clear of Manchester United in the race for the third spot in next season’s Champions League with a 2-0 defeat of West Ham. The striker Vivianne Miedema opened the scoring when she picked up a throw-in on the right and skirted across the edge of the box before lashing the ball in. The goal draws her level with Chelsea’s Sam Kerr on 18 goals for the season.

The captain, Kim Little, doubled the Gunners’ lead in the second half when she hooked in from a tight angle.

Arsenal, who travel to Everton next week before they welcome Villa to Borehamwood, added to their vastly superior goal difference over United. Their goal difference is 26 goals better than Casey Stoney’s side.