The FA Women's Premier League Cup
Arsenal lift The Cup
Arsenal defeat Doncaster to win The FA Tesco Women's Premier League Cup.
Arsenal 5-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles
FA Tesco Women's Premier League Cup
Glanford Park, Scunthorpe United FC
7pm, Thursday 26 February 2009
Live on Setanta
Kelly Smith and Alex Scott signed off in style, after their goals helped Arsenal clinch The FA Tesco Women’s Premier League Cup for the seventh time in 13 years, with a 5-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles at Glanford Park.
It was the Gunners’ second Final win at this stadium after they beat Leeds 1-0 in 2007 and it was the perfect way for Smith and Scott to say goodbye, in their last match with the club before they head off to America to join Boston Breakers.
Though the score may suggest otherwise, this victory came courtesy of a dogged, rather than totally fluid display from the north London outfit. They were unable to dominate the Belles as they had done in their League encounter before Christmas, which finished 6-1 to the Gunners, but their ability and composure in front of goal ultimately proved the difference between the two sides.
John Buckley’s side equipped themselves well, particularly in the first half, putting together a number of confident passing moves but the Gunners created the early, clearer chances and ultimately, the decisive opening goal.
That goal came after just five minutes. Kim Little broke free on the inside left and sent a low angled shot towards goal. The ball looked like it would enter the net of its own accord, but Smith was on-hand to make sure and give the Gunners the lead with a tap-in.
Rovers’ right-back, Chelsea Weston, almost replied immediately but her 25-yard free-kick curled narrowly wide.
From Emma Byrne’s resultant goal-kick, the ball broke to Arsenal’s Gemma Davison who galloped down the right hand side of midfield, evading Vanessa Leat. Davison, who was starting her first Final for the Gunners, pulled the ball across the box for Rachel Yankey who contrived to side-foot the ball high over Nicola Hobbs’ goal.
As the game began to open up, Little was again at the heart of the action from that same inside left position. In the 18th minute, she sent over an inviting cross for Smith to head goalwards, but Hobbs pulled off a magnificent double save to initially repel Smith’s header and then block the rebound from the America-bound forward.
Scott had the next sight on goal but could only watch as her long-range chip dipped narrowly over the bar.
Though they were unable to demonstrate for the whole of the first half, Arsenal’s second goal typified their undoubted class.
The move began with skipper, Jayne Ludlow, finding Little on the left. Her low, first-time cross was controlled by Smith on the edge of the area and taking just a moment to steady herself, Smith found the far corner with a finish that justifies her standing as one of the world’s finest players.
Doncaster then had two glorious opportunities in quick succession to get back into the game. A visibly injured, but nonetheless wholly impressive Rachel Williams, surged past three Arsenal defenders to thread the ball into the path of Emma Johnson. Johnson’s shot was blocked by Ciara Grant, but fell invitingly to Emily Heckler, who blazed over, when she should have at least tested Byrne.
Just a minute later, Williams again threatened to be Arsenal’s nemesis, when she out-muscled Grant, but with only the ‘keeper to beat, she pulled her shot wide. As Rovers continued to peg Arsenal back, Weston centred the ball for Emily Heckler who burst into the box, but her header flashed over.
Vic Akers side began the second half the brighter of the two sides and Smith completed her hat-trick in the 58th minute with a stunning 25-yard effort. After Leat lost possession inside her own half, Smith picked the ball up and let fly with her left foot, giving Hobbs little chance and giving Rovers an uphill battle to get back into The Final.
Yankey could have bettered the scoreline shortly after, but her angled drive was bravely blocked by Weston.
The game was effectively ended as a contest when Scott was found by a wonderful ball from Smith. With space in front of her on the right-flank, Scott carried the ball goalwards and lifted a cool finish over the advancing Hobbs. Scott patted the badge on her chest in celebration.
Rovers did not give up though. They battled till the last and Williams attempted to narrow the deficit with a delicate shot from distance which Byrne was relieved to see bend just wide of the post.
With just over ten minutes remaining, Buckley replaced Vikki Stevens with Natalie Shaw and reverted to a more attacking 4-4-2 formation, but it was to no avail.
Arsenal substitute, Susanne Grant, sealed the victory and the Gunners left Scunthorpe with The Cup and Smith and Scott waved a fond - and winning - farewell to the Gunners.
1 Emma Byrne, 2 Alex Scott, 4 Jayne Ludlow (C), 7 Ciara Grant, 8 Kelly Smith (26 Lauren Bruton, 88), 11 Rachel Yankey, 12 Gemma Davison (9 Susanne Grant, 77), 15 Laura Bassett, (5 Gilly Flaherty, 81), 16 Kim Little, 17 Katie Chapman, 19 Niamh Fahey
Smith 5, 32, 58, Scott 67, Grant 89
Substitutes not used
18 Natalie Ross, 24 Sarah Quantrill
Doncaster Rovers Belles
1 Nicola Hobbs, 2 Chelsea Weston, 3 Vanessa Leat, 4 Rachel Williams, 5 Claire Utley, 6 Amy Turner, 7 Emily Heckler, 8 Vicky Exley (C), 10 Vikki Stevens (15 Natalie Shaw, 77), 12 Natasha Hughes, 14 Emma Johnson (16 Naomi Chadwick, 88)
Substitutes not used
9 Suzanne Davies, 13 Claire Farrow, 17 Sarah Owen