The FA Women's Premier League Cup
Birmingham City 1-7 Fulham
Birmingham City Ladies 1-7 Fulham
The FA Nationwide Women's Premier League Cup
Sunday 7 April 2002
Adams Park, Wycombe Wanderers FC
Fulham Ladies completed a memorable week by adding The FA Women's Premier League Cup to last Sunday's FA Cup semi-final victory and the Premier League Southern Division title, which was clinched on Wednesday, after beating Birmingham City Ladies by seven goals to one.
The professionals of Fulham were clearly the better side but City should take heart from the display, especially considering the average age of their side was eighteen, including 15-year-old central midfielder Eniola Aluko. It was a fantastic achievement for them to even make the final, beating Doncaster Belles 4-3 in the semi-final, and they have also virtually clinched promotion to the National Premier League and so they can be proud of their achievements this season.
Their manager Marcus Bignot was rightly satisfied with his team's performance but acknowledges that they cannot compete with a professional outfit like Fulham and knows that a professional league is the only answer to close the ever-widening gap. "I know that The FA are working very hard for a professional league and I think that will be a huge boost to women's football."
He is confident, however, that in two or three years his young side will be able to compete with the likes of Fulham. "I do believe that Birmingham City's name will be spoken in the same breath as Doncaster Belles and Arsenal. Our teenagers are going to be a bit special."
Birmingham got off to the worst possible start, going a goal down after only three minutes. The dangerous Kristy Moore broke free down the right and when City keeper Melanie Ramsdale could only parry her cross, England star Katie Chapman was on hand to nod home from six yards. This started a sustained period of attacking football by Fulham with Moore and Rachel Yankey both going close to adding a second for the Cottagers.
While the score was only 1-0, City were always in with a chance and they very nearly equalised after sixteen minutes when a volley by England U19 international Katie Ward was headed off the line by Rachel MacArthur. Birmingham started to enjoy their best period of the game but the pace of Fulham’s attacking players meant they always looked capable of scoring on the break. City keeper Ramsdale was in inspired form, however, and was regularly called upon to keep Birmingham in the game.
Towards the end of the first half, it was normal service resumed as Fulham again took control of the game and it was no surprise when they went two up after 42 minutes. Ramsdale again made a great save from a Marianne Pettersen header but the ball fell kindly for Margunn Haugenes who made no mistake from eight yards.
Fulham carried on where they left off at the beginning of the second half should have extended their lead but McArthur missed two carbon copy chances at the far post. The first she somehow put wide when it seemed easier to score following good work on the left by Yankey, the second was well saved from point blank range by Ramsdale after a Haugenes cut back found her unmarked at the far post. Fulham were now rampant and cutting Birmingham apart almost at will.
The biggest surprise was that we had to wait until the sixty-first minute for them to get the third, but it was worth the wait. A marvellous cross on the right by MacArthur was powerfully headed into the top corner by Haugenes for her second goal of the game.
The biggest cheer of the game, however, came on sixty-six minutes when Birmingham pulled a goal back, sending the vociferous City support into raptures. Great work on the right by Ward left Jodie McGuckin with the simplest of chances, which she dispatched with ease. Any hopes of a City fightback were soon quashed, though, when Fulham immediately went up the other end and scored their fourth. Yankey again broke down the left and whipped in an inviting cross that City captain Laura Bassett could only head into her own goal under pressure from Pettersen.
As the game headed into the final ten minutes, the young Birmingham players were visibly tiring and Fulham took full advantage. On 81 minutes, substitute Deena Rahman exchanged passes with Haugenes before unloading an unstoppable shot into the top corner. Five minutes later, Pettersen finally got on the score sheet, her seventy-seventh goal of a formidable season, tapping home from close range and Birmingham's misery was compounded at the death when the excellent Chapman headed home for her second of the game. However it came at a price to Chapman as the undoubted star of the show, was carried off on a stretcher and Fulham and England fans will be hoping that her injury is not as bad as it appeared.
Fulham manager Gaute Haugenes was pleased with his team's second half performance and happy to get his hands on the silverware. "It is the first big trophy that we have taken home. It's an historic moment for the club and of course we are happy with that." Haugenes also spoke of the delight of Mohammed Al Fayed, Fulham's wealthy owner, who was among the crowd. "He was very pleased, he was especially pleased that even when we were three nil up we were still chasing the next goal." And Haugenes heaped praise on Katie Chapman stating that she could play in any national side in the world.