Jens Scheuer’s first match in charge ended in defeat as Albion went down 3-0 to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
It was a tough afternoon for Albion and their new head coach as the Foxes cut the gap between themselves and us to four points after collecting their first points of the season.
Aileen Whelan, who made more than 100 appearances for Albion before heading to Leicester last summer, haunted her former club with a well-taken opener just before the break.
Defender Sam Tierney scrambled the ball home from close range two minute into the second half and doubled Leicester’s goal tally for the season in the process before substitute Monique Robinson made it 3-0 with a powerful finish from outside the box. Albion had their best spell after that but couldn’t get the goal their efforts deserved.
Scheuer had to reorganise before kick off when Megan Connolly, who had been named as captain, was forced out in the warm-up with a thigh strain while Dejana Stefanovic’s accomplished debut ended in the first half when she limped off.
Scheuer had given debuts to three of his January signings with Zoe Morse lining up alongside Guro Bergsvand in a new central defensive partnership and Kayleigh Green restored to the attack.
But Leicester set the tone for the afternoon as they made the better start and had two shots in the first 15 minutes from Hannah Cain and CJ Bott, although neither troubled Megan Walsh.
After Leicester had started the stronger of the teams Albion gradually got into their stride and their best chance of the first half came on 34 minutes when Green stooped to meet Katie Robinson’s excellent cross but her header went just wide.
The visitors were forced into a change when Stefanovic was replaced by another debutant Brianna Visalli in central midfield and a minute before the break they found themselves behind when Whelan fired a low right-foot shot past Walsh from 15 yards – only the third goal the Foxes have scored this season.
Whelan had her head in her hands a couple of moments later when she lifted the ball over from eight yards after Leicester cut Albion open down our right.
The Foxes doubled their lead two minutes into the second half and it was a scrappy goal from Albion’s perspective. A free kick into the heart of Albion’s defence led to a pinball in the six-yard box before Tierney poked it home.
Danielle Carter came on after 58 minutes but Leicester nearly scored again when Cain met a good right-wing cross by Missy Goodwin on the volley, but the ball just cleared the bar.
Albion created a good chance midway through the second half after some neat approach play allowed Visalli to step forward and hit a right-foot effort from 20 yards which only just cleared the bar. Geummin Lee then hit an effort with the outside of her right foot a couple of yards wide but it was Leicester who made the points safe in the 69th minute.
Goodwin cut inside from the left and although her shot was blocked, Robinson latched onto the loose ball in the D and slammed a low shot past the helpless Walsh to make it 3-0.
Albion responded and it needed a great block tackle by Bott to prevent Poppy Pattinson from reducing the deficit. Moments later Jenna Leitzig got behind a long-range strike by Carter as Albion enjoyed their best spell of the match. Zigiotti was set up by Lee for an effort which was struck well but straight at the Leicester keeper who then made an instinctive save with an outstretched leg to deny Maisie Symonds before parrying the substitute's follow-up effort.
Our response in the last 20 minutes offered encouragement and Albion have the opportunity to bounce back quickly when they take on West Ham United in the Conti Cup at the Broadfield Stadium on Wednesday night.
Albion: Walsh, Fox, Morse, Bergsvand. Pattinson, Stefanovic (Vasalli 38), Zigiotti, Sarri (Carter 58), Robinson, Lee, Green (Symonds 70).
Subs: Startup, Williams, Park, Stott, Bance.