Arsenal Ladies 3-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
The FA WSL
4.30pm, Sunday 30 September 2012
Live on ESPN
Arsenal Ladies boss Laura Harvey revealed her delight at sealing her side’s second FA WSL title in front of a home crowd after the Gunners edged a five-goal thriller against plucky Doncaster Rovers Belles.
A brace of own goals and a Kelly Smith strike helped Harvey’s side to their tenth league victory of the season, and she hailed her entire squad for their efforts over the course of the season.
She said: “To actually win the League in front of everyone here [at Meadow Park] was a great feeling and something that we hoped to do, and we’re just glad we did it.
“We’ve talked so much about how we have a really strong squad and I’ve been able to really utilise that in the last few weeks.
“I’m just really pleased for the whole group of players, all the staff, everyone who works behind the scenes at the club to make us what we are, and that is once again, a title-winning team.”
News of Birmingham City’s 2-2 draw with Bristol Academy earlier in the day meant that the Midlands side’s faint hopes of claiming the title had finally ended, leaving Arsenal to celebrate confirmation of their second successive FA WSL crown with another victorious display in front of their home fans.
But Doncaster Rovers Belles had come to spoil the party, and they nearly took the lead within the first 120 seconds. The hosts, who had made a sluggish start, failed to deal with a teasing cross inside their box and the ball popped up for Beth England, whose well-struck volley was expertly repelled by Emma Byrne.
It wasn’t until the 13th minute that the champions registered their first effort on goal, but Alex Scott’s swerving long-range effort was easily held by Mary Earps.
However, despite the visitors’ early endeavour and vigour they cruelly fell behind in the 16th minute when Lyndsey Cunningham turned the ball into her own net.
Winger Danielle Carter’s smart reverse pass fed Ellen White, and her cross-cum-shot made its way to Cunningham, who inadvertently sliced the ball beyond Earps.
However, Belles deservedly equalised just four minutes later, with Aine O’Gorman registering a stunning goal of the season contender.
The Republic of Ireland striker picked up the ball just inside the Arsenal half, before surging inside from the left-hand channel and launching an audacious lofted shot from fully 35 yards, which dipped before squeezing between the outstretched Byrne and the crossbar.
But parity was short-lived as Arsenal restored their lead just after the half hour mark. The lively Gemma Davison tormented Cunningham down the right-hand side before driving the ball into the path of Tanya Oxtoby, who could do nothing but plant a bullet header past Earps.
Kim Little came agonisingly close to grabbing her 16th strike of the season after the break, but the Scottish midfielder’s low drive bounced off the foot of the post and away to safety.
However, Smith, who had entered the field as a substitute for Davison, wrapped things up nine minutes from time with a typically composed finish.
The England international beat the offside trap and latched on to Little’s exquisite through-ball before coolly despatching the ball into the bottom corner.
Belles skipper Leandra Little grabbed a second consolation late on, drilling home from close range after Byrne had spilled O’Gorman’s ambitious long-range drive, but it failed to spoil the party atmosphere at Meadow Park.
Doncaster boss John Buckley, who had failed to see his side score against Arsenal over the course of their previous three FA WSL meetings, admits he was encouraged by his players’ showing despite the result.
He said: “I’m happy with how they played and their performance, but they’ve just got to show that belief that they’ve shown today all the time. I’m not pleased we got beat, but I’m pleased with the performance."
Byrne; Scott, Grant, Beattie (Houghton 58), Flaherty (Tracy 72); Nobbs, Chapman, Little; Davison (Smith 74), White, Carter.
Substitutes not used Ludlow, Yankey, Fahey, Harris.
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Earps; Little, Williams, Oxtoby, Cunningham; Lagonia, Lipka, Sigsworth, Bright; England (Chadwick 70), O’Gorman.
Substitutes not used Sowerby, Holtham.