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Sunderland are through to the Final of the F.A.Women's Cup for the first time in their history after a shock 3-0 victory over Chelsea at the Stadium of Light.
The Wearsiders were worthy of their victory against the National Division high fliers and are the first club from outside the top flight to make the Final, at Pride Park on 4th May, since Fulham's full time professionals back in 2002.
Chelsea gained an early corner but Lucy Bronze headed clear to set up a quick break as Demi Stokes crossed for Natalie Gutteridge to poke a shot wide. Leanne Sanderson broke for the Londoners but Gemma Wilson comfortably dispossessed her to clear the danger.
Lucy Staniforth crossed from the right wing and as, Sophie Williams closed in, Casey Stoney cleared. A great one-two between Bronze and Gutteridge forced Chelsea keeper Siobhan Chamberlain into the game's first meaningful save after fifteen minutes.
Five minutes later, Sanderson went clear for the Blues visitors but Helen Alderson came out to smother the danger. A powerful run from Bronze then set Sunderland away and Jordan Nobbs' strike just cleared the bar. Steph Bannon's free kick caused panic in the Chelsea defence but Gutteridge's header was collected by Chamberlain. On the half hour, Kelly McDougall received the ball from a Gutteridge flick but her shot was just off target. Fine inter play between Sanderson, Jane and Edwards was broken up by Bannon and comfortably collected by Alderson.
Drama in the final minute of the first half saw McDougall shoot narrowly wide before Rafferty's cross-cum-shot clipped the bar at the other end.
Chelsea began the second half in determined fashion as they pushed forward but Bannon and Wilson stood firm in the centre of the Sunderland defence. Vicky Greenwell brought the ball forward and set up Gutteridge who beat Chamberlain from close in but the effort was disallowed for offside. A Bannon free kick again caused problems for Chelsea but Gutteridge just failed to connect.
Sanderson went clear on the hour mark but Wilson's brilliantly timed tackle averted the danger. Moments later, Sanderson went through on goal again but Alderson made a brave save at her feet as she shaped to strike.
The breakthrough came after 72 minutes when the Wearsiders were awarded a free kick in a central position just outside the box. McDougall's brilliant strike hit the post and rolled along the line for Gutteridge to react first and touch it home.
The visitors were forced to push forward and gaps began to appear in their defence as Sunderland's confidence grew. Gutteridge turned brilliantly in the box but her shot went narrowly wide.
The Wearsiders extended their lead with nine minutes remaining when Demi Stokes chased the ball down the left and crossed perfectly for Williams to force the ball home at the far post.
As the game moved into stoppage time, Sunderland scored a killer third goal. Bronze brought the ball out of defence and fed Nobbs who played in Williams and, although she was tackled, she got up to retrieve the ball and cleverly chip the stranded Chamberlain in the Chelsea goal to send over one thousand spectators at the Stadium of Light delirious and cap an astonishing performance.
(Report by Maurice Alderson)
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