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Chelsea 2 (Bleazard 22, Susi 85) Arsenal 0
A Player of the Match performance by Chelsea goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill helped the Blues reach their first ever FA Women's Cup Final, courtesy of a hard fought 2-0 win over eleven-time winners Arsenal.
Helen Bleazard's 22nd minute wonder strike put Matt Beard's side ahead and Dunia Susi's header with five minutes remaining ultimately sealed the win, but Chelsea were equally indebted to their young goalkeeper who was deputising for the injured skipper Carly Telford.
Quantrill made a string of outstanding saves to deny the Gunners, beginning her fine sequence by tipping a Kim Little effort onto the bar and completing her star performance by denying Alex Scott in added time. She particularly frustrated Rachel Yankey in the second half with a number of fine stops, many of them deflected, causing her to demonstrate her reflexes.
Despite their late arrival at Griffin Park which caused the kick off to be delayed by 15 minutes, the Blues started brightly in an attempt to catch the Cup holders cold, but it was Arsenal who registered the first shot at goal as Scott fired wide from 20 yards.
Just a couple of minutes later Scott's England team mate Susi raced down the right for Chelsea before slipping Kate Longhurst into the Arsenal box and only a fine stop from Emma Byrne prevented the Gunners from falling behind.
The next chance fell to Arsenal stalwart Ciara Grant who glanced a header just over the top. Laura Harvey's side were left to rue that missed opportunity as Bleazard put Chelsea ahead with a wonderful strike in the 22nd minute.
Scott lost the ball inside her own half, the Welsh forward picked it up, drove forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards out which flew past Byrne into the top corner.
With the holders now having to score at least once to maintain their grip on the Cup, they increased the pressure on their London rivals and created a number of quick fire efforts on the Chelsea goal and Yankey was involved each time.
First, the winger was gifted possession in the middle of the park by Laura Coombs and Yankey took a couple of touches before unleashing a rasping, long range effort which rippled the roof of the net. Then Grant skimmed another header, from Yankey's corner, narrowly over the top before Nobbs was played through by the Arsenal winger but her shot was turned behind well by Sarah Quantrill. And just five minutes before half-time, Chelsea's young keeper excelled herself once more by turning Kim Little's close range effort onto the bar.
Arsenal were on top at the start of the second half and had two early chances to equalise. Quantrill held onto Nobbs' drive at the near post and then Sophie Perry came to her side's rescue, hooking Yankey's deflected angled drive off the line.
The Gunners' dominance continued, with Chelsea virtually unable to get out of their own half, but Quantrill refused to be beaten. When Yankey crossed low for Nobbs, the midfielder directed the ball goalwards from six yards, but Quantrill got down brilliantly to prevent the equaliser. Then Yankey saw another shot deflected, this time on the edge of the box, but Quantrill was again down quickly to save. A third deflected shot, this one from Scott, was saved by Quantrill moments later. When Chelsea did eventually make it into the Arsenal half, Susi's poke goalwards was comfortably held by Byrne.
With time running out, Arsenal boss Laura Harvey made an attacking tactical switch, bringing midfielder Gemma Davison on for centre back Grant, pushing Steph Houghton back into defence and asking Little to play a little further forward. Youngster Danielle Carter was then brought on in place of Beattie as time was running out.
They continued to press, but were hit by a sucker punch in the dying embers of the game as Susi headed Dani Buet's free kick past Byrne and into the back of the net to confirm the win and seal a maiden appearance in the FA Women's Cup Final.
There was still time for Quantrill to confirm her status as the game's outstanding player by denying Scott from close range in added time.
Chelsea will now face Birmingham City, themselves first time Finalists, at Ashton Gate on Saturday 26 May.
Chelsea: Sarah Quantrill, Lara Fay, Sophie Perry, Sophie Ingle, Gemma Bonner, Kate Sherwood (sub Drew Spence 60mins), Helen Bleazard (sub Ashlee Hincks 64mins), Danielle Buet, Kate Longhurst (sub Helen Lander 75mins), Laura Coombs, Dunia Susi. Subs not used: Suzanne Lappin, Victoria Williams.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Niamh Fahey, Steph Houghton, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant (sub Gemma Davison 68mins), Katie Chapman, Jordan Nobbs, Jennifer Beattie (sub Danielle Carter 78mins), Kim Little, Rachel Yankey. Subs not used: Yvonne Tracy, Hayley Ladd, Sophie Harris.
(Report by Glenn Lavery - www.TheFA.com)
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