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Arsenal 4 (Smith 53,82, Ludlow 58, Sanderson 60)
Leeds Utd 1 (Clarke 69)
att: 24,582; at Nottingham Forest F.C.
Three goals in a devastating seven-minute spell in the second half took Arsenal towards a convincing victory over Leeds at the City Ground, and in doing so became the first club to win the F.A.Women's Cup Final for three years in succession since Southampton managed the feat in 1973.
The Gunners were given a pre-match boost as Julie Fleeting returned to the bench from a broken metatarsal but Leeds were dealt a blow as full back Nicole Emmanuel was ruled out through injury, forcing them to field Steph Houghton in the right back position and Jade Moore came into midfield.
Arsenal could have gone ahead as early as the second minute, as Lianne Sanderson released Alex Scott in the area and the full back's shot was cleared off the line by Sophie Bradley. Another good Sanderson pass found Kelly Smith in the area where, after she got past Steph Houghton, she sent in a shot which was blocked by Carly Telford.
Arsenal were looking rampant in the early stages and they went even closer as a Scott cross was half cleared by Sophie Walton as far as Scott who crashed a shot against the underside of the bar. Leeds still couldn't get the ball away and Sanderson worked herself some space in the area before Telford denied her with another excellent save.
Telford again excelled herself after Houghton was caught in possession by Rachel Yankey and Jayne Ludlow unleashed a dipping shot which was superbly palmed over the bar by the Leeds goalkeeper. Arsenal continued to press and Scott once again broke into the area but Telford blocked her first effort and smothered the rebound.
Smith made a driving run towards goal and found Yankey in the area, however the Arsenal winger took just too long over her shot and Alex Culvin was able to recover in time. Karen Carney and Sanderson both fired efforts wide as the one-way traffic continued.
Faye White headed over from close range following a good cross by Carney and a poor goal kick from Telford almost let Carney in, however she made amends for her error by blocking the resulting shot with her legs. Ludlow burst into the area to be denied by Katie Holtham's block, Arsenal appealed for handball but play was waved on.
Leeds continued to weather the storm and forced a corner three minutes before the break, Sue Smith's inswinging kick being clawed away by Emma Byrne at the near post. Back came Arsenal and a miscued header by Walton was volleyed wide by Sanderson but Leeds managed to cling on to the goalless scoreline at the interval.
As the second half began, Leeds won an early corner from which Jess Wright's shot was charged down. However Arsenal picked up the pace once again and a dangerous run from the left by Yankey ended with her clipping the ball into the path of Smith who slid the ball past Telford to make the breakthrough and give her side the lead.
Carney made a run towards the area after robbing Walton of the ball but was met with a fine tackle from Bradley and Yankey put the loose ball wide. However Arsenal were to double their advantage as a free kick into the area, taken by Sanderson, was touched past Telford by Ludlow.
Moments later and a deflected shot from Sanderson from the edge of the area gave Telford no chance and Arsenal were three ahead.
Leeds did not give up and they were rewarded in the 69th minute as Sue Smith latched on to a long ball from Wright and was unlucky to see her deft lob come back off the post, however Jess Clarke had followed up to head the rebound past Byrne for a goal on her 19th birthday and give her side hopes of a fightback.
Back came Arsenal and a firm header by Ludlow was headed off the line by Culvin. With Leeds now committed to attack, Scott wasted a glorious chance when she lifted her shot over after being set up by Smith. Julie Fleeting curled a shot just wide after some good work by Gemma Davison but any hopes of a Leeds comeback were ended eight minutes from time after Fleeting battled her way past Wright, her shot came back off the post and left a simple tap-in for Smith.
Davison drilled a shot wide as Arsenal tried to crown the win with a fifth goal but Leeds kept going until the final whistle, which signalled Arsenal's celebrations for another success.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Mary Phillip, Jayne Ludlow, Anita Asante, Faye White, Karen Carney, Kelly Smith, Lianne Sanderson (sub Julie Fleeting 73mins), Ciara Grant (sub Yvonne Tracy 73mins), Rachel Yankey (sub Gemma Davison 73mins). Subs not used: Rebecca Spencer, Gilly Flaherty.
Leeds Utd: Carly Telford, Steph Houghton, Alex Culvin (sub Olivia Thackray 80mins), Sophie Walton, Jess Wright (sub Gemma Bonner 85mins), Sophie Bradley, Jess Clarke, Sue Smith, Amanda Barr, Katie Holtham, Jade Moore (sub Mel Sutcliffe 59mins). Subs not used: Emma Higgins, Ashley Hutton.
Photo - www.jamesprickett.co.uk
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