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Chelsea 0 Doncaster Rovers Belles 1
Doncaster Rovers Belles won the WSL's 'other' FA Women's Cup showdown courtesy of long time servant Vicky Exley's free kick which earned them a 1-0 victory over Chelsea at Tooting and Mitcham.
Two much changed squads confronted each other, with Doncaster having nine newcomers to Chelsea's six in the starting line ups, but it was Belles who were the more impressive initially, though Chelsea increased the pressure late on and went close to taking the match into extra time.
The first chance fell to Exley, whose header drew a fine reaction save from Sarah Quantrill on eight minutes. The Blues found some joy from early balls played into the runs of Helen Lander and Emma Plewa and from New Zealand international Hayley Morwood's pass, Lander hit a fifteen yard shot high over the bar on fifteen minutes.
Belles took the lead when Kylie Davies committed a foul just outside the area and Exley measured a perfect free kick round the wall and into the right corner on 23 minutes. Lively Irish newcomer Aine O'Gorman nearly doubled the lead on the half hour with a powerful run and shot well saved by Quantrill.
The nearest Chelsea came to equalising was when Helen Alderson's clearance hit her own player and fell to Gemma Bonner 25 yards out, but the Blues defender's shot lacked the power to beat the retreating Belles keeper.
Belles again went very close just after the break from another free kick, this time taken by the impressive Swede Kelle Sjoman, whose 25-yarder clipped the post. Blues manager Matt Beard rang the changes, bringing on Becky Jane and Claire Rafferty and Chelsea immediately started to look more threatening. The two combined, with Jane's fine cross being headed just over by Rafferty on 64 minutes.
Drew Spence and Dani Buet, who both had fine matches for Chelsea, combined for the move of the match which saw Spence hit a spectacular flying volley from twelve yards which hit the bar and flew over. Alderson had to move quickly from her line to deny Sophie Perry as Chelsea upped the pressure but the back four, especially centre backs Maria Karlsson and Tori Willams, protected the Belles keeper well and Doncaster saw out time with few real alarms.
Chelsea, missing some key players, will be very disappointed to lose again to their bogey team and exit the FA Cup at the first hurdle, but should take some heart from the way they dominated the long periods of the second half. Doncaster will be delighted with the strong showing of their much changed squad and the promise shown by their foreign contingent as well as the English recruits, such as Williams, Alderson, skipper Katie Holtham and Lyndsey Cunningham.
Chelsea: Sarah Quantrill, Leanne Champ, Gemma Bonner, Kylie Davies, Sophie Perry, Hayley Morwood, Dani Buet, Drew Spence, Emma Plewa, Ashlee Hincks, Helen Lander. Subs: Frankie Gibbs, Lara Fay, Becky Jane, Claire Rafferty, Emma Sherwood.
Doncaster Rovers Belles: Helen Alderson, Lyndsey Cunningham, Katie Holtham, Tori Williams, Maria Kalsson, Becky Hall, Vicky Exley, Aine O'Gorman, Kylla Sjoman, Naomi Chadwick, Sarah Owen. Subs: Amy Turner, Kasia Lipka.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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