ABBI Grant’s third goal in as many matches could not quite inspire a fightback as Blues lost 3-1 to Manchester United in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup.
Lizzie Arnot’s cross dropped into the net as keeper Alex Brooks tried to gather within seconds of the start and Blues endured a tough time after that early blow.
Jane Ross scrambled in the second after Kirsty Hanson’s drive across goal was not gathered but the hosts gradually grew into the game with Grant guiding in low to Emily Ramsey’s left 10 minutes before half-time.
Connie Scofield, substitute Freya Gregory and Claudia Walker all had chances to equalise but United sealed victory and progress through Group C via Ella Toone’s outswinging finish three minutes beyond the 90.
Blues had not touched the ball when Arnot’s delivery for the wing caught out Brooks and dropped in with Toone racing in to follow up with United settling well from there.
Brooks was called upon to parry a Hanson effort around the near post, while Arnot was denied a certain second by Lucy Whipp’s sliding challenge as she looked to pull the trigger from 10 yards.
Katie Zelem’s corner that followed was headed wide by Hanson before Blues recovered, Rachel Williams’s snapshot proving awkward for Ramsey.
Chloe Arthur’s lash across goal from the corner caused concern, while Lucy Staniforth’s swing from distance dropped wide moments later.
But just as Blues had got back into the match they got hit by another sucker punch, Hanson’s centre wriggling out for Ross to poke in as Harriet Scott attempted hold her off and allow Brooks to collect.
Kirsty Smith drew a stop from Brooks and then thumped wide from a clever corner routine as United pushed for a third but momentum shifted when Staniforth and Williams combined to feed Grant’s surge and cool low finish.
Walker and Williams combined for Whipp to fire off target and Hanson worked Brooks at the other end before a glorious chance for Blues in first-half stoppage time, Staniforth nudging into Scofield’s run in behind but the finish was wide.
Walker rippled the side netting early in the second half, while United substitute Lauren James drove at Rebecca Holloway only to smash the underside of the bar from an acute angle.
Openings came and went at either end as Staniforth’s looping cross deceived Ramsey and dropped for Gregory at the far post but she could only cushion back across the six-yard box with the goal gaping.
James hit the side netting and then brought the best out of Brooks with a swinging drive from 20-plus yards that had to be tipped away from the top corner.
Gregory showed great footwork to bamboozle Amy Turner and fire in an inviting cross that was put narrowly wide by Walker with 12 minutes to go.
United sealed the deal when James backheeled from the corner into the run of Arnot whose cutback was sent looping into the net by Toone’s classy finish across goal.
Blues: Brooks, Arthur, Scott (Powell, 74), Holloway, Jordan, Scofield, Staniforth, Whipp, Walker, Williams (Gregory, 60), Grant (Brown, 85).
Goal: Grant 35.
Unused subs: Fallon, Hampton.
Man United: Ramsey, Turner, Smith (Turner, 69), McManus, Hanson, Arnot, Zelem (Ladd, h-t), Toone, Green (James, h-t), Ross, Okvist.
Unused subs: Mikalsen, Sigsworth, Galton, Groenen.
Goals: Arnot 1, Ross 27, Toone 90+3.
Booking: Turner 83.
Referee: Helen Conley.