Sunderland Ladies completed an historic double on Sunday as they won the League Cup against close rivals Leeds Utd just a week after claiming a second successive Premier League title. Natalie Gutteridge scored a goal in each half to put the Lady Black Cats in control and even though Carey Huegett reduced the arrears from the spot in second half injury time a Wearside victory never seemed in doubt.
A cagey opening by both sides exploded into life as Sunderland took the lead in the 9th minute. Sophie Williams broke away down the left and she switched play to Beth Mead who crossed into the middle for Natalie Gutteridge to jump highest and head firmly into the net. This settled Sunderland who began to play some neat controlled football creating several opportunities to extend their lead. An overlapping run by Abby Holmes resulted in Kelly McDougall striking the ball inches over before Williams cleverly turned her marker and closed in on goal only for Leeds keeper Jules Draycott to beat the shot away. Leeds tried to get back into the game and gained two corners in quick succession and as the ball came over it was well defended by Gemma Wilson and eventually cleared by Holmes. Then as Leeds’ Tanya Rich broke away her cross just evaded the outstretched boot of Carey Huegett. At the other end Mead cut in from the right to set up McDougall but her effort was well held by Draycott. Sunderland had a great opportunity to double their lead from the penalty spot in the 29th minute. Mead combined well with Gutteridge to break into the area but she was tripped as she prepared to shoot and the referee awarded the penalty. Draycott guessed correctly however and pushed out McDougall’s spot kick and the danger was cleared. Leeds began to enjoy some possession after this and Wilson and Vicky Greenwell had to be at their best in central defence to keep them at bay. Leah Galton almost capitalised on a defensive slip however but Rachael Laws quickly smothered the danger. On the stroke of half time Williams set Nicola Devine clear down the left and her cross caused panic in the Leeds defence before the ball was scrambled clear.
Holmes was obviously struggling with injury and was replaced by Becky Salicki. Leeds gained an early corner and as it came over Gutteridge was on hand to head clear and when it was played back into the box Laws did well to claim it under pressure. Leeds were back again as Galton played the ball across the face of goal but Greenwell reacted well to clear her lines. Rachel Lee won the ball in midfield and released Williams who carried the ball forward beating two defenders but her cross was collected by Draycott. Sunderland got the second goal their positive play deserved in the 66th minute and again it was Gutteridge who caused the damage. Rachel Furness brought the ball forward before brilliantly switching play to the left for Williams to go past her marker and cross for Gutteridge to head the ball out of Draycott’s reach and into the bottom corner. Leeds gained a free kick in a dangerous position but Salicki and Wilson combined well to clear. As both sides began to tire Furness headed over from a McDougall corner before Williams broke free to close in on goal only to see Draycott beat her effort away. As the game entered injury time Sunderland were happy to play “keep ball” but when Leeds cleared quickly up field the ball was played into the penalty area and it struck Furness on the hand and the referee awarded the spot kick. Huegett confidently dispatched the penalty but it was only to prove a consolation as the final whistle was greeted with wild celebrations at the completion of the league and cup double.
Full-Time: Sunderland WFC 2 vs 1 Leeds Utd LFC
Sunderland Line-up: Laws, Holmes(Salicki), Wilson, Greenwell, Devine, Lee, McDougall, Furness, Williams, Gutteridge, Mead(Ramshaw).
Subs: McFadden, Chidester, Atkinson.
A jubilant Mick Mulhern spoke after the game...”I’m delighted to add the League Cup to our League title success. I thought the girls were fantastic today and thoroughly deserved the win.”
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