First half goals from Scotland internationals Kim Little and Julie Fleeting helped Arsenal Ladies to a comfortable 2-0 win over Bristol Academy in the FA Women’s Cup Final.
Arsenal dominated much of the game at Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena on course to their 11th FA Cup win, and fifth in six years in a game which saw Bristol make their debut in the final, having lost in the semi-finals on five previous occasions, including three to the Gunners.
Mark Sampson’s side had an early chance in the game and initially troubled the Gunners, winning a corner in the second minute of the game, but Jemma Rose’s header went narrowly wide.
Inevitably, Arsenal grew into the game and Ellen White had a shot blocked, and Jordan Nobbs sent a volley over the bar before the first goal came.
Little opened the scoring on 19 minutes with a brilliant solo effort, which saw some excellent footwork as she skipped past Jemma Rose and Corinne Yorston to reach the Bristol box, before drilling a right foot shot low past Siobhan Chamberlain.
Arsenal almost doubled their lead minutes later as White cut in from the left to find Fleeting, but her shot was deflected for a corner by Yorston.
Arsenal were rampant and piled on the pressure in search of a second, and it came just after the half hour mark after a frenetic spell which saw a Fleeting shot hit the bar, before Chamberlain saved an Ellen White header from a Rachel Yankey cross.
A quick throw-in down the left allowed defender Niamh Fahey to whip in a left-footed cross, and Fleeting was able to rise up to head it into the top corner.
Bristol lost influential midfielder Jess Fishlock at half-time after a nasty clash of heads with Arsenal stand-in captain Katie Chapman at the end of the first half, with the Welsh international understood to have gone to hospital as a precautionary measure.
Despite the break, it was Arsenal who started the second half brighter, and Chamberlain again kept Bristol in the game, denying Little a second goal on 49 minutes as the Scot hit a low shot from 12 yards, after good work by Rachel Yankey.
The Vixens had several chances to exploit the Arsenal backline, but lacked a killer instinct in the final third as Arsenal dominated much of the play, sensing they just had to avoid any mistakes in defence like those witnessed in the league game against Bristol last week if they were to seal the win.
In a lacklustre second half, Bristol’s best effort fell to midfielder Helen Bleazard who fired a 20-yard free-kick against the bar on 68 minutes, but Arsenal goalkeeper Emma Byrne looked to have it covered had it fell slightly shorter.
Little always looked lively and able to score, and again almost put the game beyond doubt after the versatile Jennifer Beattie, on for compatriot Fleeting, knocked the ball down in the box, but Chamberlain saved from close range.
Chamberlain again made another fantastic save to keep the score down as she made herself big to deny an excellent volley from Little in the 81st minute, and will surely make the England squad for this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Sampson had four players up front for the closing stages in the attempt to take the game to Arsenal, but found no way through as Arsenal did enough to see the rest of the game out to secure another trophy, and Laura Harvey’s first FA Cup trophy after taking control of the team in 2010.
Both teams will take a break from domestic football for the World Cup this summer, with the Women’s Super League set to resume on July 22nd, but in reaching the FA Cup Final, Bristol will be England’s second representative along with Arsenal in the 2011/2012 Champions League which gets under way in August.
Arsenal: Byrne; Houghton, Grant, Flaherty, Fahey; Nobbs, Chapman; White, Little, Yankey (Carter 90); Fleeting (Beattie 70).
Substitutes not used: Spencer (GK), Tracy, Coombs.
Bristol Academy: Chamberlain; McCatty, Rose, Yorston, Culvin (Clark 68); Hoogendijk, Daley; Dykes, Fishlock (Billson 46), Bleazard; Heatherson (Green 84).
Substitutes not used: Windell , Jones.
Referee: Sian Massey