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Women's Football News
Arsenal clinched a berth in the F.A.Women's Cup Final at Bishops Stortford's Woodside Park with a 3-1 victory over Everton, overcoming the recent loss of key players to keep hopes of a domestic 'treble' very much alive.
Vic Akers' side will meet Sunderland on May 4th after a win which was almost sealed by half time.
The first twenty minutes were the tight, highly competitive contest which form had suggested, with no clear chances. Sadly, it was a major defensive blunder after 24 minutes which changed the game as goalkeeper Rachel Brown sliced a routine back pass straight towards Rachel Yankey who tapped in from the six yard line.
The officials took a hand in the second goal on 33 minutes when the assistant's award of a goal kick was overruled by the referee but what was not in doubt was the header which Jayne Ludlow thumped in from the disputed corner taken by Kim Little.
Arsenal now turned on the style with Gemma Davison beating her marker time after time. The best of these runs ended with a superb floated cross which struck the inside of the far post before rebounding to safety. Yankey was almost as effective on the right getting close to adding to the Gunners lead on two occasions. Everton were overwhelmed in midfield where Katie Chapman, Little and Ludlow were in total control.
It was not until the 41st minute that Natasha Dowie broke free to hit a cross shot narrowly wide with Everton's first effort on goal. However, it was Arsenal who scored the crucial third goal right on the half time whistle when Gilly Flaherty beat her marker and touched home a Little free kick right in front of Brown to end a miserable half for the Toffees.
The break gave the chance for Mo Marley to restore some order and Everton were much more combative in midfield where Jill Scott and Fara Williams drove the team forward and Dowie threatened Emma Byrne's goal. They pulled a goal back on 56 minutes when Dowie scored a very similar goal to Flaherty's effort earlier, from a Williams free kick. Everton also went close with a blocked Williams piledriver and again got the worst of the decisions when Dowie was called back for a free kick when clean through.
Niamh Fahey made a couple of crucial blocks from low crosses but Byrne had no really difficult saves to make as she was well protected by Ciara Grant, Laura Bassett, Fahey and Flaherty.
Arsenal saw the match out comfortably despite a vastly improved second half from Everton with Yankey and Davison increasingly available as outlets and Suzanne Grant replacing Helen Lander on 80 minutes. The two sides will contest a crucial league match next week and Everton can take heart from the dominance they achieved for much of the second half but will need to cut the supply lines to the wings where Arsenal were very effective throughout.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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