By Nik Brumsack at Anfield
Arsenal Ladies are through to the FA Cup final after beating Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield.
In a game that the Ladies deserved to win, Ellen White opened the scoring midway through the first half, only for Natasha Dowie to level just before the break.
Kim Little scored what turned out to be the winner eight minutes into the second half, latching on to Gemma Davison’s pass before clinically firing home.
This performance spoke volumes for the character of this Arsenal team. They were knocked out of the Champions League semi-final by VfL Wolfsburg on Sunday but responded well to produce a competent performance.
Manager Shelley Kerr named an unchanged team from the one that was beaten in Germany last weekend.
With Kelly Smith still injured, Steph Houghton continued to captain the team from central midfield, where she lined up alongside Jordan Nobbs and Little.
White started in the lone striker’s role, with Davison and Rachel Yankey supporting from the wings.
Davison had spoken during the week about the team’s urge to finally put the disappointment of bowing out of the competition at last season’s semi-final stage behind them.
But it was Liverpool who created the first chance of the game.
Nicole Rolser swung in an inviting cross from the left that the onrushing Katrin Omarsdottir could only head wide when well-placed 10 yards from goal.
Despite that let-off, Kerr’s team had started the brighter, with the direct movement of Yankey a particular threat.
The winger had caused the Liverpool defence all sorts of problems so it came as no surprise that she was directly involved in the game’s opening goal 25 minutes in.
After Niamh Fahey had extinguished a Liverpool attack, the ball was worked to Yankey just inside her the opponents’ half. She looked up and delivered a piercing crossfield pass that White latched on to before sliding the ball under Sarah Quantrill.
Just after the half-hour mark, the striker came close to extending the lead.
Little worked a crossing opportunity on the left and found White, whose near-post effort clipped the post on its way wide.
Liverpool’s back four were struggling to live with the striker, and two minutes later she was afforded time and space in the penalty area before sending in a shot that Quantrill saved well from point-blank range.
The Ladies had largely controlled the opening 45 minutes but were pegged back on the stroke of the break - though there was an element of controversy about the goal.
With Gilly Flaherty off the pitch nursing a facial injury, Liverpool forced a corner off Fahey, despite the protestations of Arsenal players who insisted the ball had not gone out.
The set-piece was cleared only as far as Amanda Da Costa, who whipped in a cross that Dowie stooped to head home and send the teams in level at the break.
Arsenal started the second half well and retook the lead just eight minutes after the restart.
Davison broke from deep inside her own half before sending a precise through-ball for Little to charge on to.
Last season’s Women’s Super League top scorer accelerated away from the defence before confidently drilling her shot into the bottom corner.
The longer the game wore on, the more Liverpool failed to deal with the direct movement of Kerr’s side. Nobbs and Little broke from midfield almost at will and Davison continued to ask questions down the right.
The winger could have extended the advantage midway through the second half but, after slaloming away from her marker, she fired a shot across the face of goal.
Nobbs shot wide from close range and Yankey saw a shot blocked as Arsenal continued to ramp up the pressure.
With time running out, Liverpool threw increasing numbers forward. It made for a tense ending but Arsenal comfortably held out to book their place in next month’s final.
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