Leicester City moved from the bottom of the Women’s Super League table and picked up their first points of the season with a significant victory over relegation rivals Birmingham City.
Sophie Howard opened the scoring in the first half with a terrific curling strike from the edge of the box.
The Foxes doubled their lead with Sam Tierney’s thumping second-half header.
In new manager Lydia Bedford’s second game in charge, Leicester moved two points clear of Birmingham.
It was set up as a potential relegation decider in the WSL and both teams were cagey in the opening minutes.
But Leicester quickly grew in confidence with Shannon O’Brien and Jess Sigsworth coming close before Howard spotted a gap to squeeze in the opener – her first goal in the WSL.
Birmingham were a threat on the break with Veatriki Sarri, while Leicester had joy down the left through Molly Pike and the hosts carried a more clinical threat up front.
There were a few nervy moments for Leicester goalkeeper Demi Lambourne in the first half but Jade Pennock, Sarri and Libby Smith were unable to take advantage.
Birmingham continued to push for an equaliser in the second half – captain Louise Quinn missed a big chance when she headed it over the bar, before Pennock sliced a shot off target.
Darren Carter’s side failed to take advantage of numerous set-pieces and Leicester remained in control before Tierney’s header from a corner of their own proved the decider.
Birmingham remain without a win this season and have fallen to the foot of the table with just a point to their tally, while this was Leicester’s first ever win in the top flight.
Celebrations for Leicester over festive period
The significance of this victory for Leicester will not be known until the end of the season but there were jubilant scenes at full-time at the King Power Stadium.
Tierney, who scored the second goal to see off Birmingham in the second half, was dancing as she celebrated with her team-mates at the final whistle, while manager Bedford could not hide a wide smile as she patted her players on the back.
In the build-up to the fixture, both managers tried to downplay the occasion, insisting there were other opportunities to pick up points in the new year.
However, the magnitude of the game was felt from minute one as the crowd were constantly egging on the home side and the noise from the players on the pitch was louder than usual.
A tense start from both sides was inevitable but Leicester were able to imprint periods of control throughout and showed the confidence Bedford has been asking for since her arrival at the end of November.
Leicester will now enjoy a Christmas break outside the single relegation spot and do not play again until 9 January, when they travel to Reading.
Meanwhile, Birmingham’s winless run continues and they face league leaders Arsenal and Champions League-chasing Manchester United in their next two fixtures in January.
For two sides struggling to pick up points this season, the three which went Leicester’s way could prove to be the ones that keep them in the top division in May.
Leicester City Women
- 22PlumptreBooked at 84mins
- 14de GraafBooked at 90mins
- 18BarkerSubstituted forBroughamat 64′minutes
- 27O’BrienSubstituted forDevlinat 88′minutes
B’ham City Women
- 14FinnBooked at 36minsSubstituted forQuinnat 76′minutes
- 19WhippSubstituted forWorsleyat 84′minutes
- 12SmithSubstituted forWhelanat 67′minutes
- 11PennockSubstituted forRyan-Doyleat 76′minutes
Match ends, Leicester City Women 2, Birmingham City Women 0.
Second Half ends, Leicester City Women 2, Birmingham City Women 0.
Foul by Natasha Flint (Leicester City Women).
Christie Murray (Birmingham City Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, Birmingham City Women. Rebecca Holloway tries a through ball, but Harriet Scott is caught offside.
Corner, Birmingham City Women. Conceded by Demi Lambourne.
Esmee de Graaf (Leicester City Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Esmee de Graaf (Leicester City Women).
Eleanor Ryan-Doyle (Birmingham City Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Offside, Birmingham City Women. Rebecca Holloway tries a through ball, but Emily Whelan is caught offside.
Offside, Birmingham City Women. Rebecca Holloway tries a through ball, but Eleanor Ryan-Doyle is caught offside.
Attempt saved. Charlie Devlin (Leicester City Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Jessica Sigsworth.
Substitution, Leicester City Women. Charlie Devlin replaces Shannon O’Brien.
Attempt saved. Jessica Sigsworth (Leicester City Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Shannon O’Brien.
Substitution, Birmingham City Women. Louanne Worsley replaces Lucy Whipp.
Ashleigh Plumptre (Leicester City Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Ashleigh Plumptre (Leicester City Women).
Emily Whelan (Birmingham City Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Rebecca Holloway (Birmingham City Women) left footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Emily Whelan with a through ball.
Foul by Molly Pike (Leicester City Women).