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Charlton Athletic 1 Cardiff City Ladies 4
Cardiff City Ladies moved ahead of opponents Charlton Athletic in the FAWPL Southern Division table after a fine 4-1 away win in their final match of 2016.
The outcome was decided by a series of high quality long range strikes from the Welsh team against a Charlton side who themselves hit the woodwork three times and had two efforts cleared off the line. Also in the mix were superb saves by both goalkeepers in a highly entertaining encounter.
The tone was set in the first minute when a Charley Clifford header from a Charlton corner bounced to safety off the post. Cardiff were soon asking questions of the Charlton defence with a highly mobile and fluent front line, Emily Allen testing home keeper Alex Baker with an early effort.
Hope Suominen was inches away from finishing a flowing Cardiff move on 18 minutes but Chloe Chivers gave the visitors the lead, driving past Baker from 25 yards after picking the ball up and running at the defence on 26 minutes.
Cardiff keeper Laura O'Sullivan prevented Kim Dixson from equalising, tipping a long range effort on to the post at full stretch then at the other end Chivers rattled the bar from 30 yards and Baker denied Kerry Bartlett from the rebound with an instinctive save. Charlton's Charlotte Lee's cross almost picked out Avilla Bergin in the hectic end to the half, but she was crowded out on the far post.
Cardiff doubled their lead shortly after the restart when Bartlett drove a loose ball low into the bottom left corner on 49 minutes. This led to another frantic twenty minute spell with chances galore at both ends. Niamh Tinman cleared off the Cardiff line from a Bergin header then Clifford put a good chance over the bar on 53 minutes but was successful in reducing the deficit five minutes later when set up by Kit Graham. In between Baker had made another fine block to deny Bartlett as Cardiff continued to regularly open up the Charlton defence.
Chivers restored Cardiff's two goal lead very quickly, curling another top quality finish beyond Baker just after the hour for her second of a highly productive afternoon. O'Sullivan produced another fine save to deny Katie Bottom a Charlton debut goal, tipping a long range effort away and then the resulting corner bounced away off the bar on 65 minutes.
The decisive fourth Cardiff goal was another beauty. A delicate chipped pass by Bartlett sent Suominen clear. Baker did well to block the first effort on the edge of her area but was powerless to stop the Cardiff forward from retrieving the ball facing away from goal and turning to lob home from 25 yards.
Charlton were by no means finished and Bergin produced two testing corners the second of which saw Graham's close range header cleared off the line by Tinman again. Sub Bupe Okeowo tested O'Sullivan with a powerful drive and Dixson went close with a free kick as Charlton fought defiantly to the end but Cardiff deservedly took the three points home with impressive displays all over the pitch to continue their unbeaten pursuit of leaders Tottenham Hotspur.
Alex Baker, Katie Flack, Kim Dixson, Rosey Sullivan, Grace Coombs, Charley Clifford, Avilla Bergin, Charlotte Lee, Kit Graham, Katie Bottom, Ruby Southgate. Subs: Bupe Okeowo, Flo Jackson, Hope Nash, Daisy Monaghan.
Cardiff City Ladies:
Laura O'Sullivan, Niamh Tinman, Gemma Evans, Abbie Britton, Emily Allen, Michelle Green, Chloe Lloyd, Kerry Bartlett, Hope Suominen, Chloe Chivers, Cori Williams. Subs: Ella Powell, Jasmine Turner, Jemma Heath, Ffion Llewellyn.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Hope Suominen under pressure from Katie Bottom
(middle) Kit Graham tries to win the ball from Kerry Bartlett
(bottom) Katie Bottom attempts to escape the attentions of Chloe Chivers
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