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Women's Football News
Arsenal got their defence of the FA Continental Tyres Cup off to a winning start when they defeated West Ham Utd's new look side 3-1 in their opening group match on Sunday.
In the competition's seven-year history, the Gunners have only failed to reach the Final on one occasion and they faced a tough start in their first game in Group Two South. However, Katie McCabe and Beth Mead ensured that Arsenal led by two goals at the break and after Brianna Visalli reduced the arrears early in the second half, McCabe sealed the win with her second goal, ten minutes from time.
The other group match saw two of the league's newcomers, Lewes and Charlton Athletic, come face to face and it was the Rookettes who ran out 5-0 winners. Avilla Bergin netted twice against her former club during the first half and Danielle Lane was also on target, with Rebecca Carter adding a late double to round off the victory.
The match which caught the most attention was in Group Two North where Manchester Utd made their debut against Liverpool. A strongly contested match was settled with just seven minutes remaining and it was United who marked Casey Stoney's first match as a manager when Alex Greenwood crossed for Lizzie Arnot to score the only goal of the game from close range. Liverpool almost salvaged a draw moments later when Christie Murray hit the post with a free kick but it was United who were to emerge as 1-0 winners.
The early leaders of the group are Reading FC Women who defeated Durham Women 4-1 in the other game. The Royals never looked back after Kirsty Pearce put them into a sixth minute lead, with Fara Williams adding a quickfire double. The Wildcats pulled one back during the second half when Beth Hepple slotted in from the penalty spot but Reading were to have the final say and Williams completed her hat-trick late on with a strike from 25 yards.
Manchester City are the only other team apart from Arsenal to have won the trophy in its history and they also found themselves with a difficult start against Birmingham City, who have been awkward opponents for them in recent seasons. Once again, the two teams produced a close game which this time finished goalless and went to a penalty shootout to decide who gets the extra point. The Cityzens twice had kicks to win the game but were thwarted on each occasion by Ann-Katrin Berger, but when presented with a third chance, this time Jennifer Beattie tucked her shot home to finally settle matters in her side's favour.
Another of the matches in Group One North also went all the way to penalties, with competition debutants Leicester City sharing a 2-2 draw with Bristol City. Leicester got off to a fantastic start and Melissa Johnson gave them the lead with just 21 seconds on the clock and they almost doubled their advantage just before half time when Freda Ayisi hit the bar. Ten minutes into the second half, Lucy Graham levelled the scores for the Vixens from the penalty spot but Leicester were to go back in front through Sophie Domingo. Graham then netted her second to send the game into a shootout where Charlotte Clarke proved to be the hero with two saves, to help Leicester pick up the extra point.
Top of the group after the opening games are Sheffield Utd, who were 2-1 winners away to Aston Villa on Saturday night. Danielle Cox headed the Blades into the lead, five minutes before half time, and after Nadine Hanssen had equalised for Villa just ahead of the hour mark, Tania Marsden slid home the winning goal for Carla Ward's side with five minutes remaining.
Chelsea meanwhile got off to a winning start in Group One South when they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1. Both teams had opportunities to break the deadlock during the first half but on the stroke of half time, Drew Spence curled home the opening goal for Emma Hayes' side. Fran Kirby made it two midway through the second half and although Aileen Whelan reduced the arrears with a powerful header twelve minutes from time, Beth England sealed the win for Chelsea late on.
London Bees played host to Yeovil Town and in a match which marked Paula Howells' 100th appearance for the club, they took the lead on the half hour when Ellie Wilson scored from close range. Yeovil responded quickly, levelling nine minutes later through a well taken goal from Olivia Fergusson but neither team was able to produce a winner during the second half, taking the match to penalties. After Yeovil missed early, the Bees found the net with all of their kicks and it was Wilson who scored the decisive fifth to earn her side the extra point.
Newly promoted Crystal Palace took on Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening and another tight affair resulted in another match which went to spot kicks. Josie Green fired home the opening goal for Spurs eight minutes before half time but Palace came back into the game after the break and got back on level terms thanks to Kallie Balfour. Spurs could have gone back in front moments later when Angela Addison hit the post from the penalty spot and it was from 12 yards that things were decided, Palace winning the resulting shootout 4-3 with Ashlee Hincks slotting in the winning kick.
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