Arsenal Ladies won a staggering 12th FA Cup Final yesterday, thumping Bristol Academy 3-0 in a match that could easily have finished up 6-0.
Under new manager, Shelley Kerr, Arsenal have endured a torrid start to their Women’s Super League season. A shocking 4-0 home defeat at the Emirates Stadium to Liverpool wounded them, as did a 1-1 draw away to Lincoln, with only a once-in-a-lifetime strike from Stephanie Houghton late on securing that point.
Arsenal had battered Bristol Academy in the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup last Sunday, emerging as 4-2 victors thanks to strikes from Ellen White, Jordon Nobbs, Danielle Carter and Kim Little. Arsenal Ladies are not used to losing and after a difficult week, that win could only have renewed their belief ahead of the FA Cup Final in Doncaster.
Stephanie Houghton gave Arsenal a surprise early lead. There’s no surprise about Arsenal scoring, nor is there of Houghton managing to register a goal, but there is considerable surprise when a left-back scores from a header on the right flank of the penalty area, because of a cross from the left-wing. Rachel Yankey’s delivery for Houghton was first-class and Siobhan Chamberlain, who was let down by her defenders not being able to get closer to Houghton, stood very little chance with her header.
Jordan Nobbs went on to hit the post in the first half as Arsenal dominated play, but there were a few fumbles from Arsenal goalkeeper, Emma Byrne, which suggested that the nerves were still lingering amongst Arsenal’s players.
Despite dominating, Arsenal failed to capitalise and score another. Perhaps a lack of confidence with their game at the moment?
In the second half, things couldn’t have gone any worse for Bristol. Lucy Staniforth suffered a terrible injury when both legs buckled when her studs got caught in the ground. Houghton, who had suffered a similar injury herself, instantly turned round so as not to remind herself and Staniforth’s screams were audible from the other end of the pitch. Thankfully, Staniforth later revealed via Twitter that her knee is okay and nothing serious appears to have happened.
As Bristol sought an equaliser, the game became increasingly stretched and Arsenal were beginning to counter effectively and find exploitable gaps. In the 72nd minute, Nobbs looped a delicious header over Chamberlain, who again had little chance with the effort after poor marking from her defenders yet again. Ellen White then added a third late on, capitalising on the rebound from another Chamberlain save.
As with the first and second goal, Chamberlain was left exposed by her defence who had gone to pieces at important moments in the game. For the last 20 minutes, they were nearly non-existent as Arsenal ploughed through time and time again on the counter-attack.
After the match, Chamberlain said: “We didn’t really turn up. We have been playing well in the league but here a lot of our players didn’t perform as well as they can. It is disappointing, because we had a lot more to give.”
For Shelley Kerr and her Arsenal side, this trophy should revitalise their confidence for their WSL season as they look to kick on from a winless start. Bristol on the other hand, will rue the fact they did not turn up when they had so much more to offer.