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 Arsenal Women 20 57 54
2 Manchester City Women FC 20 36 47
3 Chelsea FC Women 20 32 42
4 Birmingham City Women FC 20 12 40
5 Reading FC Women 20 3 27
6 Bristol City Women FC 20 -17 25
7 West Ham United Women FC 20 -12 23
8 Liverpool FC Women 20 -17 22
9 Brighton & Hove Albion Women FC 20 -22 16
10 Everton Ladies FC 20 -23 12
11 Yeovil Town Ladies FC 20 -49 -3
Pos Teams P GD Pts
1 Manchester United Women FC 20 91 55
2 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC 20 17 46
3 Charlton Athletic Women FC 20 28 41
4 Durham Women FC 20 21 39
5 Sheffield United Women FC 20 4 34
6 Aston Villa Ladies FC 20 -9 26
7 Leicester City Women FC 20 -17 21
8 London Bees FC 20 -25 21
9 Lewes FC Women 20 -24 17
10 Crystal Palace Ladies FC 20 -30 11
11 Millwall Lionesses FC 20 -56 5