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Arsenal 3 (Houghton 2, Nobbs 71, White 90)
Bristol Academy 0
att: 4,988; at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Arsenal got their hands back on the F.A.Women's Cup after a commanding victory over a valiant Bristol Academy side at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The Gunners never really looked back after scoring within the opening 90 seconds but a great performance from Bristol Academy goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain kept her side in the game in the first half. A bad looking injury to key midfielder Lucy Staniforth severely hampered Academy in the second half and Arsenal capitalised fully to run out convincing winners and give manager Shelley Kerr her first trophy since taking over.
Rachel Yankey returned to the Arsenal starting line up with Danielle Carter dropping down to the bench. For Academy, Laura Del Rio was only fit enough to be a substitute so Ann Marie Heatherson came back into the side, with Alex Windell getting the nod over Angharad James in midfield.
The game could not have got off to a better start for Arsenal as they took the lead with their very first attack. Kim Little spread the ball wide to Rachel Yankey in space and the England winger sent in a sumptuous cross to the far post where Steph Houghton gave Siobhan Chamberlain no chance with a thumping header.
Academy could have been back on terms just two minutes later though, after winning a corner on the right. Little tried to let the ball hit the side netting but instead it struck the post and fell for Jemma Rose who skied her shot over the bar from six yards.
Arsenal hit back and won a corner themselves, Yankey's inswinging kick being scrambled away but Lucy Staniforth was dispossessed by Jordan Nobbs and the ball ran for Ellen White who tried her luck from the edge of the area and Chamberlain did well to palm her swerving shot around the post.
Arsenal were looking dangerous every time they went forward at this stage and Yankey whipped in another teasing cross to pick out White who was unmarked in the centre but Chamberlain once again came to her side's rescue by turning her shot over the bar.
White was again to go close with a shot from the edge of the area after Little had won the ball from Alex Windell. The chances weren't going exclusively Arsenal's way though with Ann Marie Heatherson trying to find space on the edge of the area and after her effort was charged down, Nikki Watts lifted a shot just over the bar.
Arsenal passed up another good opportunity as White rose well to win a header and put Little away on goal but the midfielder lacked her usual assuredness in front of goal and blazed a left foot shot over. Minutes later Academy had a lucky escape when Jennifer Beattie headed away a free kick and sent Nobbs down the right, the Academy defence backed off and Nobbs carried on towards goal but her shot came back off the inside of the post and into the grateful arms of Chamberlain.
Chamberlain then pulled off another fine save, diving full length to turn a drive by Alex Scott past the post but Academy held on to keep the one-goal deficit at the interval.
The first chance of the second half came the way of Academy as they were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Staniforth's low kick was turned around the post by Byrne and the resulting corner was just too high for Rose and she could not direct her header on target.
Arsenal came strong again and Yankey was inches over with a free kick at the other end whilst Houghton fired over the bar following good retrieving work by White after a rare fumble by Chamberlain. Gilly Flaherty headed just wide from a corner as Arsenal continued to dominate chances.
Sadly the game was marred as Staniforth tried to turn near the touchline and collapsed in agony with what looked to be a serious looking injury after appearing to catch her studs in the turf. The midfielder, who has been in outstanding form for her club this season, was stretchered off after a long stoppage.
Things got even worse for Academy five minutes later as they found themselves two goals behind. The ball broke kindly for Davison on the right after charging down Yorston's clearance but she floated an inch perfect cross just beyond the far post where Nobbs headed firmly back across goal and into the far corner.
Academy were forced to take the gamble of sending on Del Rio and it gave them an immediate lift, Watts finding space on the edge of the area before finding Natalia who hooked a shot over her head but just over the bar. At the other end, White was just off target with a well struck volley from Davison's flick on.
It should really have been three when, following another good clearing header from Beattie, Arsenal broke away and Nobbs was clean through on goal with two team mates supporting. However she appeared to get caught in two minds and overran the ball, allowing Chamberlain to come out and make a smothering save.
Academy typically refused to give up with Heatherson having a shot blocked after being fed by Del Rio but another Arsenal break could have brought another goal as Davison cut in but her low shot was held by Chamberlain. Bristol continued to try and attack but found an Arsenal defence, in which Flaherty once again excelled, in mean mood.
However the game was put beyond all doubt three minutes into injury time. Byrne, whose kicking from the floor had been strangely erratic in the first half, hit a pinpoint pass from her hands to Davison on the left, she drove forward and cut the ball back to Nobbs whose shot was parried by Chamberlain but White was left with a simple finish for the third.
Academy tried hard to get a consolation and it looked to have come when Watts' cut back found Angharad James whose goalbound shot brought out an excellent save from Byrne. A scramble ensued from the resulting corner but Academy could not force it home for a consolation.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Jennifer Beattie (sub Jade Bailey 90mins), Steph Houghton, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant (sub Yvonne Tracy 90mins), Gemma Davison, Jordan Nobbs, Ellen White, Kim Little, Rachel Yankey (sub Danielle Carter 84mins). Subs not used: Rebecca Spencer, Lauren Bruton.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Loren Dykes (sub Laura Del Rio 74mins), Corinne Yorston, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Natasha Harding, Natalia Pablos Sanchon, Alex Windell (sub Angharad James 45mins), Ann Marie Heatherson, Lucy Staniforth (sub Grace McCatty 65mins), Nikki Watts. Subs not used: Rebekah Kyle, Ellie Curson.
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