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Birmingham City 1 Arsenal 2
Arsenal earned a semi final tie with Chelsea in the FA Women's Cup by coming from behind to beat Birmingham City 2-1 at Solihull Moors FC.
Having deservedly exited the Champions League at the hands of the Blues, Arsenal performed with more cohesion, driven on by an increasingly influential Kelly Smith and Japanese midfielder Shinobu Ohno to overturn Remi Allen's opener midway through the first half with a Smith penalty and Freda Ayisi's 54th minute winner.
Understandably in their third meeting in less than five weeks, the early play was cagey and both defences coped fairly easily with familiar attacking strategies.
Danielle and Jess Carter resumed their intriguing battle down the Arsenal right and Jo Potter was always seeking to spread play, especially towards Karen Carney on the Birmingham right with Chelsea Weston often acting as the overlapping wing back. Neither keeper had a save of note in the first 20 minutes though with both back fours solid.
The first real move of attacking invention led to the opening goal. Kirsty Linnett made good ground on the right before seemingly being halted by the impressive Leah Williamson. However Jade Moore retrieved the ball after defensive hesitation and Linnett's perfect cross found the head of Remi Allen who rose well to plant a solid header wide of Siobhan Chamberlain from ten yards on the half hour.
Arsenal took a while to respond from this setback but started to threaten a little more as the break approached. Even so, it took a penalty decision to offer them a way back. A first time Smith cross shot from the right hit Jade Moore and the midfielder was penalised for handball. Smith stepped up to covert the spot kick via the inside of the right hand post of Rebecca Spencer's goal.
Danielle Carter put over a dangerous cross just before the break but the sides were level at half time.
Birmingham had a great chance to go back in front five minutes into the second half. A quickly taken free kick by Potter released Carney on the right and her far post cross was volleyed over by Melissa Lawley.
Four minutes later and Arsenal were in front for the first time. Danielle Carter picked the ball up and slotted an inch perfect pass into the path of Ayisi who kept her cool to steer her shot past Spencer.
Linnett drove a 25-yard shot narrowly wide at the other end but with Birmingham committed forward, Arsenal looked dangerous on the break. There was almost a vintage goal from Smith who put her shot wide after she had burst past two defenders and then Casey Stoney headed just past the post from a free kick.
Birmingham had strong appeals for a penalty following a challenge on Lawley by Williamson but these were rejected by the referee. Allen went close from another good centre by Carney but the Arsenal defence stayed strong and they held out for an important win.
Arsenal will now take on Chelsea at Woking FC this Sunday in a repeat of their semi final of two years ago, when Chelsea were 2-0 victors on that occasion.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Chelsea Weston, Jess Carter, Jade Moore, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Melissa Lawley, Remi Allen, Kirsty Linnett, Karen Carney, Jo Potter. Subs: Emily Westwood, Hannah Keryakoplis, Sophie Baggaley, Meaghan Sargeant, Katie Wilkinson.
Arsenal: Siobhan Chamberlain, Alex Scott, Emma Mitchell, Yukari Kinga, Casey Stoney, Leah Williamson, Jade Bailey, Shinobu Ohno, Freda Ayisi, Kelly Smith, Danielle Carter. Subs: Rachel Yankey, Caroline Weir, Christie Murray, Niamh Fahey, Vyan Sampson.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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