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Women's Football News
Arsenal 1 (Little 81) Birmingham City 0
att: 2,535; at Barnet F.C.
Arsenal kept their grip on the Continental Cup when a late wonder goal from Kim Little gave them victory against a dogged Birmingham City side at Underhill.
The Gunners thoroughly deserved the win after dominating the vast majority of the match but had been continually frustrated by a Birmingham back four which had defended superbly with Kerys Harrop outstanding in the centre and goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer pulled off a string of good saves, while Arsenal twice struck the woodwork.
The first presentable opportunity came in the ninth minute when Rachel Williams played in Eniola Aluko whose angled shot went across the face of goal.
Arsenal went on the attack and the ball fell kindly for Rachel Yankey just inside the area but Chelsea Weston did well to close her down quickly and charge down her shot.
Kim Little tried her luck from long range with a strike which flew wide and a good move saw Yankey's pass flicked over the Birmingham defence by Kelly Smith for Alex Scott but the ball was always bouncing away from the full back down the slope and she could only direct her shot straight ay Rebecca Spencer.
Arsenal continued to look dangerous going forward and Steph Houghton was next to go close from Ellen White's pass but her shot was blocked by Kerys Harrop. Laura Bassett made a last ditch challenge to deny Little in front of goal and there was a moment's worry for Spencer as a long distance Houghton effort slipped through her grasp but, to her relief, out for a corner.
Spencer then did well to come out of her area and clear and prevent Smith from getting on the end of a loose pass from Weston. Arsenal went straight on the attack again and Scott fed White in the area where her shot was saved by Spencer.
Smith went even closer with a 25-yard free kick which struck the bar but after having to withstand a lot of pressure and not showing a huge amount of attacking intent, Birmingham almost landed a sucker punch when Rachel Williams slid a fine pass to Aluko whose low shot brought out a good diving save from Emma Byrne.
The pattern of the game continued at the start of the second half with Arsenal on the front foot and Smith threatened again early, bursting into the area where she was held up by Harrop but still managed to set up a chance for Little to fire over.
Arsenal should really have been one up on 52 minutes though as Little broke down the right and crossed for Houghton in front of goal but her miscued header was going off target and White could only divert the ball over the bar. Moments later it was White who was next to go close as her well struck shot was parried away by Spencer.
The next chance was to go Birmingham's way though, Weston's long ball beat Ciara Grant and Williams went through, rounding the oncoming Byrne but with the angle narrowing, sent her shot wide of the post.
Yankey fired a shot narrowly wide and Houghton had a shot charged down by Bassett before Spencer pulled off a superb diving save from a Smith free kick. A scramble from another Arsenal corner almost led to another chance but this time Gilly Flaherty's header came off Weston and Spencer gathered.
Houghton fired over from distance and Gemma Davison crashed a 20-yard shot against the post but with nine minutes left, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough - and what a strike. Little received the ball and dribbled across the edge of the area, beating three challenges before drilling an unstoppable left foot shot into the far top corner.
Birmingham tried to respond with the Gunners twice having to negotiate goalmouth scrambles but Arsenal always looked dangerous on the counter attack and Davison almost doubled their lead as she sped into the area where her initial shot was well saved by Spencer, Davison returning the ball goalwards but Weston was on hand to clear off the line.
Scott went close with a strike from outside the area as Arsenal, with the ever dependable Grant and unflappable Flaherty keeping things tight at the back, saw the game out for yet another piece of silverware.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Niamh Fahey, Steph Houghton, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant, Katie Chapman, Kim Little, Ellen White (sub Gemma Davison 63mins), Kelly Smith (sub Jennifer Beattie 77mins), Rachel Yankey (sub Danielle Carter 90mins), Subs not used: Yvonne Tracy, Jayne Ludlow, Bianca Bragg, Sophie Harris.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Rachel Unitt (sub Issy Christiansen 63mins), Jade Moore, Kerys Harrop, Laura Bassett, Emily Westwood, Rachel Williams, Eniola Aluko, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Emily Simpkins, Anna Wilcox, Hannah George, Marie Ballard, Cristina Torkildsen.
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