By Max Jones at Meadow Park
Arsenal Ladies’ defence of the FA Women’s Cup ended after a 2-1 defeat against Chelsea in the quarter-final at Meadow Park.
It was a frustrating result for the Gunners, who struggled to find their usual fluency against Emma Hayes’ physical side.
Former Gunner Katie Chapman gave Chelsea the lead with a towering header before Gemma Davison smashed in a second for the visitors.
Emma Mitchell pulled one back with a 30-yard rocket on the stroke of half-time but Arsenal struggled to break Chelsea down after the break and the Blues secured their place in the semi-finals.
SETTING THE SCENE
Pedro Martinez Losa made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Notts County last Thursday.
Leah Williamson - who scored the dramatic penalty to to secure England Under-19s’ place in the European Championship - started alongside Vicky Losada at the base of midfield.
Kelly Smith also made her first appearance of the season, spearheading the the Gunners’ fluid front three in place of Lianne Sanderson.
Smith scored twice the last time the sides met in the competition, helping Arsenal reach the 2014 final, and she would play a decisive part against an experienced Chelsea defence that included former Gunner Niamh Fahey.
The visitors swept into the lead. Blues captain Chapman - a four-time FA Women’s Cup winner with Arsenal - climbed highest to power Ji So-Yun’s corner past Emma Byrne.
Smith then curled inches wide before testing Hedvig Lindahl with a dipping strike from 25 yards, but Chelsea soon doubled their advantage. Davison beat Mitchell with a clever stepover and rifled home.
Arsenal were then called into some last-ditch defending when Alex Scott blocked Ji’s goal-bound header and Danielle Carter had to clear, but the Gunners soon found their way back into the game.
Finding a yard of space on the left-hand side deep in Chelsea’s half, Mitchell thundered an early goal-of-the-season contender over Lindahl and into the top corner to give Arsenal hope on the stroke of half-time.
Sanderson and Chioma Ubogagu came on at the break but, despite the Gunners’ wealth of attacking options, Chelsea threatened first.
Eniola Aluko stole the ball from Alex Scott by Arsenal’s corner flag and pulled back to Ji, who cannoned a powerful strike off the crossbar from the edge of box.
Smith then sent a 25-yard drive inches over before Byrne had to produce a fine reaction save to keep Aluko out from two yards.
The Gunners had one final chance to level when Carter combined with Smith to release the onrushing Jordan Nobbs, but Millie Bright made a vital block as the holders were knocked out of the competition.
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