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Arsenal 5 (Ludlow 15, Little 54, Yankey 61, Nobbs 70, Carter 73)
Rayo Vallecano 1 (Natalia 71)
Arsenal won 6-2 on aggregate
Arsenal cruised into the quarter finals of the UEFA Women's Champions League for the tenth time in eleven years with a convincing victory over Spanish Champions Rayo Vallecano at Boreham Wood.
The Gunners were never really at their best and passed up a hatful of chances but killed off the tie with four goals in a 20-minute second half spell to book their place in next Thursday's quarter final draw.
After a quiet opening ten minutes, Arsenal burst into life as Kim Little slid a pass down the right for Ellen White who tried an ambitious 30-yard lob which sailed just wide. Gilly Flaherty then played a long ball down the left for Rachel Yankey to set up Katie Chapman, who shot wastefully wide on the turn. From the resulting goal kick, Jordan Nobbs headed the ball into the path of Little but Alicia did well to come off her line and save.
The pressure eventually told on 15 minutes as another long ball over the top caught the Spaniards cold, this time White latching onto Ciara Grant's pass before setting up Jayne Ludlow with an easy tap in from ten yards.
Arsenal continued to press and the only surprise was that they couldn't add another goal before half time. A powerful strike by Little was charged down by Cristina Pizarro and a Nobbs shot was turned round the post by Alicia following good work by Little. White then went even closer as another long ball, this time from Steph Houghton, caused problems for Vallecano but, after rounding the keeper, her shot was cleared off the line by Pizarro.
There was a warning for Arsenal as Pizarro shot over at the other end from Natalia's pass but they should have been two ahead on the stroke of half time as Little latched onto Houghton's long pass and rounded Alicia before chipping the ball for Nobbs to head wide of an empty net.
Nobbs almost made amends in the first minute of the second half with a 25-yard lob which was just over but Arsenal's frustrations were eased eight minutes later. Yankey played a terrific reverse pass into the path of Ludlow on the right, her pass found White who set up Little to strike home from eight yards.
There was another scare at the other end when Natalia burst into the area where her shot was cleared off the line by Houghton. Two minutes later though, Arsenal were three ahead when a long clearance by Emma Byrne was chased down by Yankey who powered a first time shot over Alicia and into the back of the net.
With Nobbs impressing when breaking from midfield and Chapman and Ludlow dominating matters just behind her, Arsenal sought further goals and the next was not too long in coming. Ludlow won the ball in the centre circle and found Yankey, who slid a through ball to Nobbs who fired confidently home for a goal her performance merited.
Vallecano's reply was instant; a spectacular 30-yard strike from Natalia which gave Byrne no chance and drew applause from the home crowd. Two minutes later though and the four-goal margin was restored, Houghton skipping a tackle before feeding substitute Danielle Carter, who cut inside Sonia Ruiz Vesga before planting a left foot shot into the corner of the net.
Yankey had been unlucky to see a second goal ruled out by a very late offside flag and Ludlow was denied by a good fingertip save from Alicia after being set up by Nobbs and Little.
Vallecano almost snatched a late consolation as both Jennifer Hermoso and Paloma Lazaro struck the bar in injury time but Arsenal had put the record straight following last year's struggles against Vallecano at the same stage, to round off a magnificent year for Laura Harvey's side.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Steph Houghton, Niamh Fahey, Jayne Ludlow, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant, Katie Chapman, Jordan Nobbs (sub Jennifer Beattie 82mins), Ellen White (sub Danielle Carter 68mins), Kim Little, Rachel Yankey. Subs not used: Sophie Harris, Yvonne Tracy, Hayley Ladd, Angharad James, Melissa Lawley.
Rayo Vallecano: Alicia, Fumi Goto (sub Paloma Lazaro 59mins), Sonia Ruiz Vesga (sub Ana Catala 85mins), Pilar Villalba (sub Esther Gamo 80mins), Marta Gonzalez, Alexandra, Natalia, Saray Garcia, Cristina Pizarro, Ana Rubio, Jennifer Hermoso. Subs not used: Estefania Guisado, Patricia Martinez.
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