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Leeds Carnegie made the Premier League Cup Final an all-Northern affair with a 2-0 win over Chelsea in their semi final at Imber Court.
After two rained off matches in London recently, Carnegie were able to head north with a deserved victory over a disappointing Blues team who missed the striking power of the suspended Emma Whitter and were unable to break through an impressive Leeds team, who will meet Everton on February 11th.
A tight and tense fIrst half saw both defences on top and neither keeper seriously tested. Leeds had to reshuffle early on after the unlucky Jess Wright was unable to continue after a leg injury, though thankfully she was able to walk off the field after lengthy treatment.
Time and space was at a premium as a frantic pace was maintained and Leeds sought to feed Sue Smith and Jess Clarke on the wings whilst Chelsea used Becky Jane's pace to support Lianne Sanderson. Drew Spence won a crucial defensive header under pressure on 25 minutes and Kylie Davies and Shelby Hills were solid in central defence against Carla Cantrell and former Blue Ellen White, but Chelsea offered little threat on Carly Telford's goal.
After the break, the Carnegie forwards started to make inroads into the Chelsea penalty area and chances started to fall their way. Goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain failed to claim a corner and a goalbound Clarke shot appeared to be blocked by a team mate. White went close with a header from another corner on the hour and the same player missed after rounding Chamberlain, who was booked for her challenge on 64 minutes.
Casey Stoney cleared off the line from Clarke as Leeds dominated but the crucial first goal on 69 minutes was controversial. Chelsea's Danni Buet had a cross blocked by Laura Bassett but her handball appeals were ignored and, worse still, the ball was directly cleared to the halfway line and Carla Cantrell who drove forward into the penalty area and finished well from a narrow angle.
Sanderson worked tirelessly to try to inspire the Blues to little effect as the impressive Jade Moore controlled the midfield and the back four mopped up effectively. The final berth was made safe four minutes from time as Chamberlain again failed to deal with a corner and skipper Sophie Bradley made sure from close range.
Chelsea finally tested Telford in injury time as she saved well from a Sanderson shot and was quick off her line to foil Claire Rafferty but the tie had already been won and lost.
Leeds Carnegie look an impressive unit with a great shape and team unity, packed with England age group players and full internationals. Chelsea have a similarly strong group of players and things might have been different had they been at full strength on Sunday. To complete a miserable afternoon for the Blues, the reserve team lost 2-0 to Arsenal reserves in the League Cup at Cobham, losing their grip on the Cup they won last year.
Chelsea: Siobhan Chamberlain, Sophie Perry, Eartha Pond, Kylie Davies, Shelby Hills, Drew Spence, Casey Stoney, Danielle Buet, Claire Rafferty, Lianne Sanderson, Rebecca Jane. Subs: Emily Morphitis, Sokhara Goodall, Laura Cooper, Faye Rabson, Katy Ling.
Leeds Carnegie: Carly Telford, Sophie Walton, Jess Wright, Sophie Bradley, Laura Bassett, Jess Clarke, Jade Moore, Katie Holtham, Sue Smith, Carla Cantrell, Ellen White. Subs: Mel Sutcliffe, Rachel Daly, Remi Allen, Gemma Bonner, Natalie Staneff.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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