Danielle Carter hit a stunning Wembley winner as Arsenal Ladies picked up their 14th Women’s FA Cup with a deserved win over Chelsea Ladies in Saturday’s final.
In front of a record crowd of 32,912, the Gunners fought through to win the trophy at the national stadium for the first time in a reminder of how dominant a force they can be in the Women’s game.
Two defeats in five Women’s Super League matches – including one inflicted by Chelsea – have given an impression of weakness in this side, but none of that was on show here.
Arsenal Ladies captain Alex Scott lifts the Women’s FA Cup after beating Chelsea 1-0 at Wembley on Saturday
Danielle Carter (right) is held aloft by her Arsenal team-mates after she took the lead for Arsenal in the first half
Chelsea players argue after Carter was given too much time to be able to get her shot away for the 1-0 lead
Gilly Flaherty can’t hide her emotion as she drops to her knees after Chelsea lost 1-0 at Wembley on Saturday
The FA Women’s Cup final between Arsenal and Chelsea was played in front of a record attendance of 32,912
Carter struck after 18 minutes and Chelsea never looked close to finding the goals they needed to match their own Wembley success of last summer.
‘The girls were fantastic,’ Arsenal manager Pedro Losa said. ‘Once you keep growing in the game your performance is increasing and increasing and I think they gave everything on the pitch.
‘Tactics are important but playing with your heart and playing with desire are more important. Today the girls did both.
‘Victory is a tradition in Arsenal and it’s something we really wanted so badly, especially beating Chelsea.
‘I also think it can change the dynamic in the league. Every game is very competitive. We will see teams losing points and at the moment from tomorrow we have to try.’
Gemma Davison (left) comes forward for Chelsea as she aims to put the Arsenal defence under pressure
Katie Chapman (centre) attempts to win the ball for Chelsea and take it away from three Arsenal players
Fara Williams holds up the ball before starting yet another Arsenal attack at Wembley on Saturday afternoon
Arsenal have only lost one of the 15 Cup finals they have competed in and there was little chance of them surrendering success on Saturday.
The action started slowly with Carter and Fara Williams both sending tame efforts over Chelsea keeper Hedvig Lindhal’s crossbar before the former sparked the match into life with her brilliant opener.
Arsenal were dominant in possession and centre back Casey Stoney had all the time in the world as she lofted a ball out to Carter on the left.
The 22-year-old stuttered forward, taking slight touches with her right foot to earn a yard of space inside right back Hannah Blundell before curling beautifully over Lindahl’s head and into the top corner.
It was a real moment of quality for the 32,912-strong crowd at Wembley to enjoy – even with some having missed the kick-off due to long ticket queues outside the ground.
Carter started her run from outside the penalty area before she took the ball past several Chelsea players
After jinking inside then out, Carter got her shot away from just inside the Chelsea area and it flew past Hedvig Lindahl
Carter ran straight to Kelly Smith after her brilliant right-footed curling effort that nestled in the top corner
Her goal put Arsenal on their way to winning their 14th FA Cup, which is more than any other side in women’s football
The Chelsea players were left only to blame each other after Carter got past several players before scoring
Cup-holders Chelsea had barely come out of the traps until that point but the shock of going behind appeared to provide a wake-up call.
Blundell immediately looked to make up for her part in the goal, bombing forward to slip Fran Kirby through but the forward, who netted twice against the Gunners in a 2-0 win last month, hesitated and her low shot was well-saved by the legs of Sari van Veenendaal.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Van Veenendall 6; Scott 6.5, Henning 7.5, Stoney 8, Mitchell 6.5; Williams 7.5 (Janssen 74mins, 6.5), Losada 7; Oshoala 7.5 (Williamson 89), Nobbs 8, Carter 8.5; Smith 7 (Van de Donk 74, 6.5)
Unused subs: Byrne, Pablos Sanchon
Goal: Carter 18
Manager: Pedro Martinez Losa 7
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl 7.5; Blundell 6.5, Bright 5.5 (England 78), Flaherty 6.5, Borges 5; Spence 6, Chapman 6; Davison 7, Ji 6, Carney 6.5 (Aluko 55, 7); Kirby 6.
Unused subs: Spencer, Rafferty.
Manager: Emma Hayes 6
Referee: Sarah Garratt 7
Player of the Match: Danielle Carter
Arsenal couldn’t quite clear though and Blundell had another opportunity to put the ball in to the diminutive Kirby to beat Van Veenendaal but she could only head on to the roof of the net.
From there until the half-time whistle, it was all Arsenal. Chelsea No 10 Ji So-Yun scooped over on 28 minutes in a rare well-crafted counter but the Gunners were undoubtedly on top.
A second goal proved elusive, though, and chances were hard to come by until two real opportunities to double the lead presented themselves just before the break.
On 42 minutes, a great move through the middle from Arsenal was ignited when Kelly Smith wheeled back off the frontline before sliding Asisat Oshoala through on goal but the winger’s finish was weak and easily cleared.
The Nigeria international should have scored but solid contact on the ball was lacking as she fell inside the penalty area.
Carter then came close again, firing at goal from 25 yards only to see her shot saved low by Lindahl.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes reacted by switching systems at the break. Niamh Fahey replaced Drew Spence and Millie Bright moved forward to offer more presence in midfield.
Arsenal’s domination continued though and another scare came when Smith battered the crossbar with a header from Oshoala’s cross before the offside flag was raised.
Eniola Aluko was thrown on for Chelsea and looked threatening but with Ana Borges now more advanced at left full back there was increasing space for the pacey Oshoala to open Hayes’ defence up.
Asisat Oshoala (left) of Arsenal put a dangerous cross into the Chelsea penalty area but no one could take advantage
Chelsea used a more aggressive approach after going behind in the first half and here Drew Spence (left) grapples with Vicky Losada for the ball
Her finishing continued to be wasteful though, Lindahl blocking well again when the 21-year-old broke through.
It was the sort of miss that so often comes back to haunt you, a goal up in a Cup final. Chelsea might still have been second best but simply the increasing number of bodies being thrown forward upped their threat.
Aluko was providing the spark and when she won a corner with 20 minutes remaining Ji should have done better when the set-piece fell to her feet, instead she sliced wide.
Chelsea continued to push on but the Arsenal defence, marshalled by centre back pairing Stoney and Josephine Henning, stood strong.
Kirby spooned a shot wide and the ball skimmed over the head of substitute Bethany England as the Blues searched for a late equaliser.
Former Reading star Kirby – isolated for so much of the game – had the final chance but she could not quite stretch far enough to reach Gemma Davison’s ball.
Chelsea manager Hayes rued the way her side failed to make an impact despite their attacking talents.
Chelsea’s fans waved blue flags which had the club’s crest on them as they tried to encourage their team
Oshoala was close to extending Arsenal’s lead but Lindahl managed to get to the ball before the Arsenal player
‘Congratulations to Arsenal,’ she said. ‘It was a fantastic performance and a reminder of how it is about a single game. It’s not about an accumulation of games against each other, it’s not about previous history, it’s not even about recent form.
‘It’s about showing up and putting in a performance. Arsenal did that today, they dominated. I have no complaints about the result.
‘When we reflect on that as a team tomorrow I will remind the players of what the game plan was and how often it is we did what we wanted them to do.
‘But that’s a credit to Arsenal, they put us under a lot of pressure, they pressed us high in our half and I think they got their just reward for that.’
The Gunners might be stuttering in the Women’s Super League but here they showed that, once again, they are well at home on the showpiece occasion.
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