Thursday 11 October 2012

Arsenal Ladies 1-0 Birmingham City

Arsenal Ladies have claimed their second successive league and league cup double after Kim Little’s spectacular late strike earned them a 1-0 FA WSL Continental Cup Final victory over Birmingham Ladies.

The champions spurned several chances before Little, a thorn in Birmingham's side throughout the evening, cut in from the right flank and fizzed an unstoppable left-footed drive beyond the reach of goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.

Both Kelly Smith and Gemma Davison struck the woodwork, while the livewire front duo of Eni Aluko and Rachel Williams came close to putting Birmingham on the scoresheet.

Gunners boss Laura Harvey praised match-winner Little and hailed her side's persistence.

She said: "We made it hard work at times, and Birmingham are a good team, and our games against each other are always good.

"I just thought we had that little bit extra tonight and it was always going to take a little bit of quality to win the game, and Kim provided it in the end.

"What a finish - there's not many people who can do that off their weaker foot."

Having played out a 1-1 draw on the last day of the FA WSL season just three days earlier, the league's top two, who met in last year's final, unsurprisingly contested a tight affair.

Arsenal, who dominated the first half, were nearly caught out in the first ten minutes. Aluko evaded the offside trap to meet Rachel Williams' neat through ball, but she dragged her low effort wide of the post.

The Gunners upped the ante shortly afterwards, and began to place the Blues under increasing pressure, troubling the Midlands side with their relentless intensity and clever movement.

Both Steph Houghton and top-scorer Little saw first-time shots blocked, while Smith was desperately unlucky not to break the deadlock when her sumptuous 25-yard free-kick cleared the wall and crashed off the crossbar.

But the livewire Aluko gave Arsenal another glimpse of her pace and trickery towards the end of the first half, as she burst past the defence and drove the ball towards the bottom corner. However, goalkeeper Emma Byrne got down well to claw the ball away to safety.

The Londoners continued where they left off after the interval - Smith somehow nodded wide from two yards out as she redirected Steph Houghton's header, while Davison, who had emerged as a second-half substitute for Ellen White, drove the ball against Spencer's post.

Meanwhile, Birmingham nearly exploited Arsenal's high defensive line, as Williams latched onto Chelsea Weston's raking 50-yard ball and rounded Byrne, but the Birmingham striker fired her shot into the side-netting from ten yards out.

But with just eight minutes remaining, Little produced her spark of genius to hand Arsenal the lead.

The goal prompted Birmingham into action - they had two scrambled efforts cleared off the line following corner-kicks late on - but Arsenal held on to secure the win.

Birmingham boss David Parker rued his team's missed chances, but admitted that Arsenal deserved to win.

He said: "When you have the chances in the big games, you've got to take those chances. Eni's had two saved in the first half, there were two cleared off the line from the corner straight after the goal.

"But it wasn't to be, we've just got to hold our hands up, Arsenal just had the better team tonight."

Line-ups:

Arsenal (4-3-3): Byrne; Scott, Flaherty, Grant, Fahey; Houghton, Chapman, Little; White (Davison 64), Smith (Beattie 78), Yankey (Carter 90).

Subs not used: Tracy, Bragg, Harris, Ludlow.

Bookings: Houghton 70.

Red cards: none.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Spencer, Weston, Harrop, Bassett, Unitt (Christiansen 65); Westwood, Carney, Potter, Moore; Williams, Aluko.

Subs not used: Hourihan, Simkins, Wilcox, George, Ballard, Torkildsen.

Bookings: none.

Red cards: none.

Att: 2,535

 

Comments

Pos Teams P GD Pts
1 Manchester City Women FC 16 34 38
2 Arsenal Women 14 42 36
3 Chelsea FC Women 16 19 32
4 Birmingham City Women FC 15 6 28
5 Bristol City Women FC 15 -9 22
6 West Ham United Women FC 15 -7 19
7 Reading FC Women 14 -1 18
8 Liverpool FC Women 14 -11 16
9 Brighton & Hove Albion Women FC 16 -21 12
10 Everton Ladies FC 13 -18 6
11 Yeovil Town Ladies FC 14 -34 3
Pos Teams P GD Pts
1 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC 15 19 39
2 Manchester United Women FC 13 59 34
3 Durham Women FC 14 21 29
4 Charlton Athletic Women FC 14 19 29
5 London Bees FC 16 -16 21
6 Leicester City Women FC 16 -7 20
7 Aston Villa Ladies FC 14 -10 17
8 Sheffield United Women FC 13 -13 13
9 Lewes FC Women 15 -17 13
10 Crystal Palace Ladies FC 16 -18 10
11 Millwall Lionesses FC 14 -37 5