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Portsmouth upset the National Division leaders Sunderland to secure a semi final place in the Premier League Cup by coming from behind to win 2-1 after extra time at Moneyfields F.C.
In a thrilling match, the pace barely dropped from first to last and the Southern Division team performed brilliantly to hold the pacy Sunderland attack at bay whilst always threatening to score themselves.
Sunderland had not played for nine weeks and there were moments where this lack of match practice may have told but every Portsmouth player performed with great spirit and heart to clinch a famous victory.
Pompey tore out of the blocks inside the first two minutes as Rachel Laws made a fine block to deny Shelly Cox, then Gemma Hillier burst clear of the back four but was unable to convert the chance. Sunderland started to find their feet fairly quickly, with Jordan Nobbs and Kelly McDougall threading passes towards the forward runs of Sophie Williams and Demi Stokes on the left.
McDougall hit a 20-yarder just wide and Williams had a powerful drive well held by Lou Worsfold as the Black Cats reached the middle of the half slightly on top. Justine Lorton's fine run was halted by a foul and her free kick from 25 yards tested Laws who dived to hold at her right post on 37 minutes.
The away team went very close on 42 minutes when a fine McDougall pass released Williams whose cross was met by a powerful Nobbs volley, well parried by Worsfold.
Portsmouth again started strongly after the break with Cox, Lorton and Hillier combining well to press Sunderland back, but a lightning quick break out led to the opener on 55 minutes. Two early passes and great movement took the ball from the Black Cats' own six yard box to the opposite penalty area where Alex Windell was adjudged to have fouled Natalie Gutteridge as they challenged for the through ball. McDougall stepped up and coolly converted the spot kick.
Nobbs nearly doubled the lead straight away with a 25-yard free kick which Worsfold turned away but Pompey struck back in their next attack. Another dangerous Hillier run seemed to have been halted
but Pompey sub Lyndsey Roe blocked the clearance which fell to Lorton, whose powerful drive from 10 yards was low and although Laws did well to get a hand to the ball, it was too strong to be kept out.
The setback stung Sunderland into action and they had a dominant spell when it seemed they must score. Stokes got clear and was denied by a great reaction save on 65 minutes, Gutteridge had a long range effort tipped wide, while another incisive raid by Ellie Christen and Stokes led to an
overhead kick attempt which Worsfold dived to push out as the Wearsiders pressed for a winner.
The most controversial attempt came when a long Laws clearance was allowed to bounce and Worsfold attempted to head clear under pressure from a forward and a defensive colleague. The ball fell loose to Nobbs who netted but the goal was ruled out to Sunderland's disappointment.
Extra time saw Worsfold continue to shine with another save from Stokes when played in by Nobbs on and Williams shooting over, but it was the home team who took the lead on 100 minutes through skipper Gemma Hillier, who had worked tirelessly at harassing the Sunderland back four all match. Played in again, she curled a super 20-yard right foot shot beyond Laws.
The Sunderland offside appeals were waved away and Hillier nearly scored again, only denied by a fine save as Laws tipped the ball on to the post.
Pompey should have sealed the match directly from the start of the second period as Lorton stroked a penalty wide, after a trip in the box. Instead, Pompey's Lauren Murphy was shown a second yellow for a foul with eight minutes left and Sunderland pushed for an equaliser. However, just as when playing with nine at Reading earlier in the competition, Pompey showed great calmness with Kirsty McGee dropping in at centre back and they passed the ball really well to frustrate the visitors right to the final whistle.
Despite not meeting often, the two clubs have strong similarities with a large number of local players who have risen through the ranks, an experienced management team with continuity and loyalty in great measure. The teams will reconvene in two weeks in the FA Women's Cup with Sunderland hosting this time. If the return is as good as this game, the Wearside fans are in for a treat.
Portsmouth: Louise Worsfold, Kerri Ryan, Jade Kirby, Molly Clark, Lauren Murphy, Alex Windell, Lucy Quinn, Kirsty McGee, Gemma Hillier, Justine Lorton, Shelly Cox. Subs: Lyndsey Roe, Lysette Russell, Lucy Keil.
Sunderland: Rachel Laws, Ellie Christon, Vicky Greenwell, Steph Bannon, Gemma Wilson, Kiera
Ramshaw, Kelly McDougall, Jordan Nobbs, Demi Stokes, Natalie Gutteridge, Sophie Wiliams. Subs: Helen Alderson, Jordan Atkinson, Sarah McFadden, Charlotte Potts, Rebecca Saliki.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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