By Nik Brumsack at Woodside Park
Arsenal Ladies sent out a strong message to their domestic rivals by advancing to the semi-finals of the FA Cup with a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Birmingham City at Woodside Park.
Gemma Davison and Ellen White each netted a brace, while Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little were on target either side of the break.
This was a dominant and efficient performance which will further increase confidence ahead of Sunday’s Champions League semi-final first leg against German side VfL Wolfsburg.
Arsenal had eased into this tie after an impressive 7-0 victory at Nottingham Forest in the last 16.
Shelley Kerr made five changes from the side that had started that game, with Emma Byrne, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant, Davison and Little all recalled.
In recent years, David Parker’s side have come closest to challenging the Ladies at the top of the women’s game.
Birmingham have twice finished runners-up in the Women’s Super League and had also triumphed in last season’s FA Cup final, beating Chelsea on penalties.
But after a tight start to proceedings, it was Arsenal who struck first.
Davison was freed down the right before jinking into the area and firing in a shot that squirmed under Marie Hourihan and in.
In truth, there hadn’t been much to choose between the sides during the first 25 minutes.
At one end, Rachel Yankey and White both shot over. At the other, the physical presence of England striker Rachel Williams ensured Grant and Flaherty were kept busy.
Slowly though, Kerr’s side began to assert control, and increased their lead on the half hour with a goal of real individual quality.
When Nobbs received the ball 25 yards out, there looked to be little danger. But after taking a touch to set herself, the 20-year-old looked up and rocketed a shot straight into the top corner.
It was a goal of true class and will only add to the young England international’s ever-heightening reputation as one of Europe’s biggest talents.
Birmingham, desperately trying to stay in the competition, came close to an instant reply but Emily Simpkins’ shot was deflected inches past Byrne’s post.
Shortly before the break, the visitors’ task became even more difficult.
Rachel Unitt’s heavy touch let Yankey in down the right. The winger cut back inside onto her left foot and sent in a sumptuous cross for White to loop a header over Hourihan.
Just after the restart, the pair combined again to effectively end the tie as a contest.
Jo Potter’s poor pass presented the ball to Yankey and the 33-year old, who equalled Peter Shilton’s England cap record at the weekend, released White.
The striker advanced at goal before stroking the ball into the far corner.
Now Arsenal were rampant and, three minutes later, they made it five.
Davison escaped down the right before pulling the ball back for Little to powerfully smash home.
Despite being five goals clear, there was not let up, with Little racing back 40 yards to dispossess Simpkins typifying the work rate of Kerr’s side.
Davison added further gloss to the win late on, rounding substitute goalkeeper Mary Earps before sliding the ball in to complete a very satisfying night’s work.
- Scott 57
- Houghton (C)
- Nobbs Goal!
- Little Goal!
- Davison Goal! Goal!
- Yankey 69
- White 75 Goal! Goal!
- Ludlow 75
- Carter 69
- Beattie 57
Birmingham City Ladies
- Hourihan 69
- Bassett (C)
- Potter 63
- Westwood 65
- Izzy Christiansen
- Mary Earps 69
- Coral Haines
- Wilkinson 65
- Crissy Torkildsen 63
- Kirsty Linnett