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Arsenal 0 Bristol Academy 0
Arsenal's ten-year grip as Champions is in serious jeopardy as they battled out their second goalless draw in four days, this time against fellow title contenders Bristol Academy.
The result means that Liverpool require four points from two games in order to win their first ever title whilst Academy have to win their remaining three matches to do likewise. Arsenal need to win both of their last two games and rely on their two rivals to drop points.
In a tense but enthralling affair, Arsenal were the dominant force for the opening hour with Kim Little giving an outstanding display in midfield, before Academy came on strong and were left to rue a golden chance missed in injury time.
However it was Arsenal who passed up a great opportunity to take the lead as early as the fourth minute. Danielle Carter received the ball on the right hand side of the area and sent in a cross which picked out Ellen White in front of goal but the striker headed over from six yards out.
Arsenal continued to dictate possession with Academy content to soak up any pressure but the Gunners almost found a way through when Jordan Nobbs slid a through ball for Gilly Flaherty who poked her shot just wide at full stretch.
Natalia drilled a 20-yard shot over the bar after Alex Windell had helped win an opening on the right but it was a rare first half attempt from the visitors. Arsenal hit back and went close again from a Kim Little corner, Steph Houghton rising highest at the far post but her header was tipped over the bar by Siobhan Chamberlain.
Arsenal then produced their best move so far, Katie Chapman doing well to wriggle free from two opponents before finding Little who made a driving run into the Academy half. Her pass picked out White who crossed for Carter to take one touch before firing a left foot shot just off target.
Academy were dealt a blow just before half time when Laura Del Rio suffered another recurrence of her hamstring injury and she had to be replaced by Ann Marie Heatherson.
After the break, Academy saw more of the ball and grew in confidence as an attacking force but they needed to withstand a spell of severe Arsenal pressure early after the restart. Gemma Davison sped away down the left as Arsenal broke away from an Academy attack with Little in support but her pass wasn't quite accurate enough and the Scottish international had to break her stride before eventually getting in a shot which was just wide.
Little was in excellent form in midfield and she created a good chance a minute later, her chipped pass putting White away but her lob over Chamberlain was also just too high. Little then fired an angled shot across the face of goal with no team mate on hand to force the ball home.
At the other end, the visitors almost took the lead through a clever chest trap and volley by Natalia from the edge of the area which looked destined for the corner of the net but drifted inches past the post.
Back came Arsenal and Chamberlain was again called into action, turning a White shot over the bar and from the resulting corner, Chapman's header was narrowly over.
Then came a contentious moment from an Academy attack. Natasha Harding received a pass from Christina Vega Leandro and made her way into the area where she appeared to be brought down under a challenge from Emma Mitchell. Despite vehement protests from the players and manager Mark Sampson, play was waved on and no penalty was awarded.
The decision seemed to spur Academy on though and they began to look the more likely side to score. Heatherson went close as she beat Cherie Rowlands to a Windell free kick but her looping header landed on the roof of the net. Then, Natalia slid a neat pass into the path of Harding who tried to guide a left foot shot into the corner but the debutant keeper, in for the injured Emma Byrne, came to her side's rescue with a good save.
It was then Arsenal's turn to suffer an injury blow, captain Houghton limping off with a knee injury which could have ramifications for both her club side and England.
With both sides needing to win, the game became more and more open during the last ten minutes as both were committed to attack. Rachel Yankey, who had come on as a substitute, was in blistering form on the left and sent over a number of threatening crosses, one of which picked out Nobbs at the far post but she could only head wide. Academy were also looking far more dangerous and got into good positions but could not find the final pass for a way through.
As the game went into injury time, Yankey had a powerful shot parried by Chamberlain and the rebound was scrambled away. Academy kept possession and looked set to run down the clock until Heatherson's pass released Harding clean through on goal with only Rowlands to beat, however the Welsh international lacked her normal composure and sliced her shot wide.
Moments later the final whistle sounded and although Academy would have been much the happier of the two sides, neither side really wanted a draw and Liverpool were the main beneficiaries on the day.
Arsenal: Cherie Rowlands, Alex Scott, Emma Mitchell, Katie Chapman, Gilly Flaherty, Steph Houghton (sub Ciara Grant 76mins), Gemma Davison, Jordan Nobbs, Ellen White (sub Rachel Yankey 69mins), Kim Little, Danielle Carter. Subs not used: Yvonne Tracy, Caroline Weir, Freda Ayisi, Jade Bailey.
Bristol Academy: Siobhan Chamberlain, Grace McCatty, Corinne Yorston, Jaz Matthews, Jemma Rose, Angharad James, Natalia Pablos Sanchon, Alex Windell, Natasha Harding, Laura Del Rio (sub Ann Marie Heatherson 43mins), Christina Vega Leandro. Subs not used: Ellie Curson, Ellie Leek, Nikki Watts, Rhian Cleverly, Laura May Walkley, Charlotte Maynes.
(top) Danielle Carter is pursued by Jaz Matthews
(middle) Ellen White goes close with a second half lob
(bottom) Gemma Davison tries to escape from Angharad James, Corinne Yorston and Keka
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