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Bristol Academy Res 1 Arsenal Res 5
Arsenal Reserves cruised to a comfortable 5-1 victory against Bristol Academy to clinch a place in the FA Women's Premier League Reserve Cup Final against holders Everton Reserves.
Three goals in seven minutes either side of half time took the game away from Academy and, although the hosts rallied well, Arsenal added a late goal to secure the win.
A strong wind was in Arsenal's favour in the first 45 minutes and they penned Bristol back in their own half for much of the time. Abby Evans in the Academy goal was kept very busy, saving well from Angharad James' near post effort and tipping over a powerful Freda Ayisi free kick inside the first five minutes. A clearance off the line kept the match scoreless but Arsenal were rewarded for a dominant start by another Ayisi thunderbolt from 25 yards which flew in over the keeper to gave the Gunners a 10th minute lead. Tricia Gould, Ayisi then Melissa Lawley all tested Evans.as Arsenal pressed the Vixens high up the pitch, moved the ball fluently and threatened to add to their lead.
Academy finally started to string a few passing moves of their own together with Ellie Curson and Laura May Walkley trying to thread balls through a solid looking Arsenal defence. With the wind at their backs after the break and only a one goal deficit, Academy would have been confident but Arsenal scored twice late on to emphasise their superiority in the half. First the impressive Ayisi powered her way into the area and, when Evans made a good block, the ball looped up kindly for Lawley to nod home. Then the pacy winger ran diagonally past three challenges to set up Ayisi, who smashed the ball high past Evans as the Gunners went in three goals to the good.
Any hopes of a miracle comeback were immediately ended as poor Academy play in midfield left Lily Agg clear on goal for a crisp finish from ten yards at the near post. With no choice but to attack, Academy finally started to win battles all over the field and put concerted pressure on the Arsenal goal. A long range shot by Ellie Isaac which evaded Scarlett Field in the Gunners goal gave the hosts a lifeline on 57 minutes and they then created a series of chances which might have given them a way back. Curson volleyed over from ten yards on 59 minutes, Field dropped a cross which Academy could not force home and then a clever free kick routine on 75 minutes left two players free beyond the far post and a diving header was cleared off the line by Gunners sub Alexa Passingham.
Whilst any of these moments could have sparked a miracle comeback and Academy pushed on at a high tempo, tackled aggressively and played really well, Arsenal always looked dangerous on the counter, with Evans making two further good saves. It was Agg who added to the Gunners margin of victory with another powerful rising shot from 15 yards with a couple of minutes left.
The sides had already drawn 1-1 in the League and are due to meet soon in a title showdown. Academy will need to find their best form from the start next time as they showed that they can create chances against very effective and strong opponents. On this occasion, however, the Arsenal attack had already decided the outcome with powerful finishing from Ayisi and Agg.
Bristol Academy: Abby Evans, Kirsten Rendell, Georgie Malpas, Ellie Isaac, Georgie Presswell, Rhian Cleverley, Abbey Reynolds, Ashleigh Harris, Laura May Walkley, Ellie Curson, Robyn Pinder. Subs: Ellie Leek, Chloe Tape, Kim Maggs, Rebecca Holloway, Hannah Churchill.
Arsenal: Scarlett Field, Angharad James, Meaghan Sargeant, Taylor O'Leary, Leighanne Robe, Hayley Ladd, Melissa Lawley, Bianca Bragg, Freda Ayisi, Lily Agg, Tricia Gould. Subs: Alexa Passingham, Nicole Adams, Meg Ryan, Nicole McPhee, Zoe Cunningham.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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