By Emmet McEvoy
Arsenal Ladies have reached the FA Cup final after beating Chelsea 5-3 after extra time in a remarkable match at Woking’s Kingsfield Stadium.
Kelly Smith had a penalty saved in a goalless first half before equalising after Ji So-Yun had given Chelsea the lead. Yuki Ogimi restored Chelsea’s lead before another goal from Smith sent the match to extra time.
Strikes from Danielle Carter and Shinobu Ohno put Shelley Kerr’s side in the driving seat before Eniola Aluko pulled a goal back. Casey Stoney sealed the win with a header from a corner.
SETTING THE SCENE
Leah Williamson started in defence for Arsenal alongside Stoney. Yukari Kinga partnered Jade Bailey and Smith in midfield, with Carter and Freda Ayisi providing width for Ohno.
Former Arsenal players Katie Chapman and Gilly Flaherty started for Chelsea.
The opening stages were scrappy. Chelsea had the ball in the net after three minutes but Ogimi’s shot was ruled out for offside.
Ayisi had a shot blocked by Flaherty a few minutes later before Ogimi failed to get good contact on a cross from Aluko.
The first real chance of the game fell to Arsenal. Carter burst through but, under pressure from Flaherty, dragged her shot wide of the post.
Moments later Smith had a shot blocked by Laura Bassett before Carter squandered another great chance. She capitalised on a loose header from Bassett to race through on goal but placed a shot inches past the post.
Arsenal had a golden chance to take the lead ten minutes before the break. Ayisi was fouled in the box by Marie Hourihan but the Chelsea goalkeeper saved Smith’s penalty.
Arsenal started strongly after the break and Emma Mitchell drove a shot wide from the edge of the box.
Chelsea, though, should have taken the lead with their first real opportunity moments later. Aluko was sent clear on goal but Chamberlain made an excellent block.
Chelsea took the lead when Aluko found So-Yun in the box and the Chelsea forward finished into the roof of the net.
Less than a minute later Arsenal were level when Smith met Carter’s cross with a looping header that gave Hourihan no chance.
That goal sparked the Gunners into life and Smith was inches away turning the tie on its head when she saw a 30-yard thunderbolt that the crossbar.
With 15 minutes remaining, neat passing between Alex Scott, Kinga and Smith presented Mitchell with a chance but the Scotland international missed the target.
Chelsea took the lead again in 85th minute. Siobhan Chamberlain could only parry Aluko’s shot into the path of Ogimi, who finished from six yards.
Again, the lead lasted less than a minute.
Smith received the ball 35 yards out, took aim and curled a brilliant shot over Hourihan and into the net to send the tie into extra time.
The game continued at a frantic pace and Arsenal took the lead for the first time shortly into the extra 30 minutes when Carter deflected Smith’s shot past Hourihan.
They almost doubled their advantage moments later when Ohno was sent clear by Smith but her shot trickled just wide.
Ohno wasn’t to be denied for long though and did make it 4-2 ten minutes into extra time. Carter did brilliantly to get to the byline and her cross was turned in by the Japanese international.
But Chelsea wouldn't go doing without a figh and pulled a goal back just before the changeover when Aluko curled a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Kerr’s side eventually made the game safe just after the restart when Stoney headed home from a corner.
They could even have added to the scoreline – a late free-kick from Smith was brilliantly saved by Hourihan – but Kerr will be delighted with the result and the performance.
A final against Everton awaits on June 1.
Referee: Sian Piret
Copyright 2024 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.