By Tom Bennett in Japan
Arsenal Ladies booked their place in the International Women’s Club Championship final with a 2-0 win over Okayama Yunogo Belle on Wednesday in Tokyo.
Shinobu Ohno gave the Gunners an early lead, firing in from close range after good work from Emma Mitchell and Danielle Carter.
The Japan international added a second shortly before the hour mark with an excellent header, to set up a clash with South American champions Sao Jose on Saturday.
SETTING THE SCENE
It was the Ladies’ first competitive match since their defeat to Manchester City in the Continental Cup final six weeks ago.
Lianne Sanderson and United States international Yael Averbuch - a guest player for the tournament from FC Kansas City - joined Jordan Nobbs in a new-look midfield.
A crowd of 1,339 watched the game at Tokyo’s Field Nishigaoka, including a vocal group of Arsenal supporters behind one goal.
The match got off to a fast start, with the sides trading long-range shots in the first minute.
There were more chances in a lively opening quarter of an hour. Nobbs went closest on 13 minutes, lobbing a shot over Belle keeper Miho Fukumoto and onto the bar from the edge of the box.
Playing in Japan for the first time as an Arsenal player, Ohno gave the Gunners the lead after 16 minutes in front of her home crowd.
A low centre from Mitchell was flicked goalwards by Carter. Fukumoto got down to it well but could only parry and Ohno was quickest to the rebound to score.
The World Cup winner could have had a second moments later when she burst into the box from the right-hand side, but her shot was blocked by the keeper’s legs.
Ohno made it 2-0 with a fantastic header just before the hour mark. Captain Alex Scott curled a ball in from the right corner of the box, Ohno got clear of her marker and glanced the ball into the top far corner.
Nobbs had chances to extend the Gunners' lead, forcing a good save from Fukumoto with a shot from close to the left byline, and firing just over from a Carter cross.
At the other end, Belle playmaker and Japan captain Aya Miyama proved a constant threat.
Alert and committed defending from Arsenal ensured a clean sheet though, and a place in Saturday’s final.
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