By Chris Harris
Arsenal Ladies just don’t lose FA Cup Finals.
This was their 10th showpiece appearance and a 10th triumph duly arrived as a resolute Sunderland side were seen off at Pride Park thanks to goals from Katie Chapman and Kim Little.
Chapman fired home in the 32nd minute after Helen Alderson failed to hold Gemma Davison’s venomous shot. If the Black Cats keeper was at fault for that, she certainly kept her team in the game with a string of fine saves.
Little finally sealed victory in stoppage time with a neat finish on the counter-attack and, although Kelly McDougall scored an even later consolation for Sunderland, there was no time for a grandstand finish.
Arsenal's fourth consecutive FA Cup success keeps them on track for a domestic treble and was the perfect way for Vic Akers to mark his last Final after 22 years at the Arsenal Ladies helm. Incredibly this was the 31st major trophy of the Akers era but the 32nd might be harder to come by - Arsenal must beat Everton next weekend to retain their Premier League title.
It was the turn of Derby County to host this showpiece event and Pride Park did the women’s game proud. The weather was typical Bank Holiday fare – chilly and grey – but there was colour in abundance inside the stadium. Judging by the noise, the klaxon sellers outside had done a brisk trade.
Faye White, recently back from a knee injury, was not risked from the start so Jayne Ludlow led Arsenal out. The skipper provided a solid base in midfield alongside Chapman, allowing Rachel Yankey, Davison and Little the freedom to support Suzanne Grant. At times, the pace and fluency of Arsenal’s attacking quartet was simply too much for Sunderland.
Davison set the tone with a storming run into the box from the kick-off and Ludlow tested Alderson as early as the third minute. Seconds later Suzanne Grant went through on goal but could only prod her effort past the post. Nonetheless, Arsenal meant business.
But this would not be one-way traffic. Sunderland understandably took time to find their feet – this was their first major Final after all – but they gave their illustrious opponents one or two things to think about. Jordan Nobbs had a glimpse of goal after 12 minutes but couldn’t get sufficient power on her near-post effort to trouble Emma Byrne. Sophie Williams did warm the keeper’s hands though after bursting through on the left moments later.
But Sunderland’s No 1 was much the busier. Alderson watched one long-range strike from Little fizz over the bar but had to cling on to one Davison piledriver before tipping another Little effort onto the base of her post after the Scottish striker found herself all alone in the box.
Sunderland’s back door was starting to creak through and Arsenal forced it open just after the half-hour. A delightful cross-field ball from Little picked out Davison on the left. She cut inside and unleashed a fierce strike that Alderson could not hold and Chapman swept in the rebound from eight yards.
Three minutes before the break Suzanne Grant should have doubled Arsenal’s lead after another astute through-ball from Little. She fired wide and Sunderland were reprieved.
A scrappy start to the second half was not helped by a worrying injury to Williams, who was stretchered off after a long delay while she received treatment.
Chances were few and far between after the break but when they came, they came for Arsenal. Ciara Grant fired wide from 12 yards after Yankey’s corner had dropped for her beyond the far post. Then Alderson excelled once again, sticking out a foot to deflect Helen Lander’s shot away from danger after the substitute had raced through on goal.
The Sunderland keeper saved close-range headers from Ludlow and Gilly Flaherty as the minutes ticked away but she could not stop Little adding a second in stoppage time after the Scottish striker latched onto a through-ball and pirouetted past Alderson before slotting into an empty net.
To their credit Sunderland kept going and Sarah Danby forced a smart tip-over from Byrne in the dying seconds before McDougall found the net with the last kick of the contest.
The Black Cats certainly deserve marks for effort. But for Arsenal Ladies, this was a perfect 10.
- Bassett 90
- Chapman Goal!
- Grant 62
- Davison 82
- Little Goal!
- White 90
- Ross 82
- Lander 62
- Bannon (C)
- Williams 62
- McDougall Goal!
- Gutteridge 83
- Danby 83
- Devine 62