Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
The FA Women’s Cup
7.45pm, Thursday 3 May 2012
Griffin Park, Brentford FC
Winning club will receive £2000 from The FA prize fund
Click here for ticket information for The Final
A Player of the Match performance by Chelsea goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill helped the Blues reach their first ever FA Women’s Cup Final, courtesy of a hard-fought 2-0 win over eleven-time winners Arsenal.
Helen Bleazard’s 22nd-minute wonder strike put Matt Beard’s side ahead and Dunia Susi’s header with five minutes remaining ultimately sealed the win, but Chelsea were equally indebted to their young goalkeeper who was deputising for the injured skipper Carly Telford.
Quantrill made a string of outstanding saves to deny the Gunners, beginning her fine sequence by turning a Jordan Nobbs effort behind for a corner and completing her star performance by denying Niamh Fahey in added time.
She particularly frustrated Rachel Yankey in the second half with a number of fine stops, many of them deflected, causing her to demonstrate her reflexes.
Chelsea can now look forward to a first FA Women's Cup Final, against Birmingham City - themselves first-time Finalists - on Saturday 26 May.
Despite their late arrival at Griffin Park which caused the kick-off to be delayed by 15 minutes, the Blues started brightly in an attempt to catch the Cup holders cold, but it was Arsenal who registered the first shot at goal as Alex Scott fired wide from 20 yards.
Just a couple of minutes later Scott’s England team-mate Susi raced down the right for Chelsea before slipping Kate Longhurst into the Arsenal box and only a fine stop from Emma Byrne prevented the Gunners from falling behind.
The next chance fell to Arsenal stalwart Ciara Grant who glanced a header just over the top. Laura Harvey’s side were left to rue that missed opportunity as Bleazard put Chelsea ahead with a wonderful strike.
Scott lost the ball just inside the Chelsea, the Welsh forward picked it up, drove forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards out which flew past Byrne into the top corner.
With the holders now having to score at least once to maintain their grip on The Cup, they increased the pressure on their London rivals and created a number of quick-fire efforts on the Chelsea goal and Yankey was involved each time.
First, the winger was gifted possession in the middle of the park by Laura Coombs and Yankey took a couple of touches before unleashing a rasping, long-range effort which rippled the roof of the net.
Then Grant skimmed another header, from Yankey’s corner, narrowly over the top before Nobbs was played through by the Arsenal No.11 but her shot was turned behind well by Quantrill.
And just five minutes before half-time, Chelsea’s young ‘keeper excelled herself once more by turning Kim Little’s close range effort onto the crossbar.
Arsenal were on top at the start of the second half and had two early chances to equalise. Quantrill held onto Nobbs’ drive at the near post and then Sophie Perry came to her side’s rescue, hooking Yankey’s deflected angled drive off the line.
The Gunners’ dominance continued, with Chelsea virtually unable to get out of their own half, but Quantrill refused to be beaten. When Yankey crossed low for Nobbs, the midfielder directed the ball goalwards from ten yards, but Quantrill got down brilliantly to prevent the equaliser. Then Yankey saw another shot deflected, this time on the edge of the box, but Quantrill was again down quickly to save.
And a third deflected shot, this one from Scott, was saved by Quantrill moments later.
When Chelsea did eventually make it into the Arsenal half, Susi’s poke goalwards was comfortably held by Byrne.
With time running out, Arsenal boss Harvey made an attacking tactical switch, bringing midfielder Gemma Davison on for centre back Grant, pushing Steph Houghton back into defence and asking Little to play a little further forward. Youngster Danielle Carter was then brought on in place of Beattie.
They continued to press, but were hit by a sucker punch in the dying embers of the game as Susi headed Dani Buet’s free-kick past Byrne and into the back of the net to confirm the win and seal a maiden appearance in The FA Women’s Cup Final.
And there was still time for Quantrill to confirm her status as the game's outstanding player by denying Fahey from close range in added time.
Chelsea will now face Birmingham at Ashton Gate on Saturday 26 May.
18 Sarah Quantrill, 2 Lara Fay, 3 Sophie Perry, 5 Gemma Bonner, 6 Kate Sherwood (4 Drew Spence, 60), 8 Dani Buet, 15 Helen Bleazard (7 Ashlee Hincks, 64), 16 Sophie Ingle, 17 Dunia Susi (C), 19 Laura Coombs, 20 Kate Longhurst (10 Helen Lander, 75)
Substitutes not used 9 Sue Lappin, 21 Victoria Williams
Manager Matt Beard
1 Emma Byrne, 2 Stephanie Houghton, 5 Gilly Flaherty, 7 Ciara Grant (12 Gemma Davison, 68), 8 Jordan Nobbs, 11 Rachel Yankey, 14 Jennifer Beattie (15 Danielle Carter, 78), 16 Kim Little, 17 Katie Chapman (C), 19 Niamh Fahey, 22 Alex Scott
Substitutes not used 3 Yvonne Tracy, 25 Hayley Ladd, 31 Sophie Harris
Manager Laura Harvey
Referee Paul Forrester
Helen Bleazard (hidden) is crowded by Chelsea team-mates after giving the Blues the lead against Arsenal in The FA Women's Cup Semi-Final.
Helen Bleazard and Dunia Susi goals book Chelsea first ever Women's Cup Final spot.