DCSIMG

United shot down by lethal Gunners burst

Leeds United Ladies 1 Arsenal Ladies 4 Leeds United Ladies had to settle for runners-up spot to Arsenal Ladies in the Women's FA Cup Final for the second time in three years.

Despite the first half heroics of Leeds' keeper and player of the match, Carly Telford, the Gunners' quality proved too much when three goals in six minutes put the tie beyond Rick Passmoor's brave young Leeds team.

It was always going to be a tough test for Leeds up against an Arsenal side seeking a League and Cup double.

The Gunners had notched an impressive 29 goals on their way to the Final, held at Nottingham Forest's City Ground in front of a record Bank Holiday crowd.

And the warm spring sunshine encouraged one over-exuberant fan to streak onto the pitch in only a thong and boots in what was a carnival atmosphere.

Arsenal besieged the Leeds goal from the outset.

As early as the second minute, United skipper Jess Wright was forced to clear off the line from Gunners' right-back Alex Scott – who might have bagged herself a first half hat-trick.

Minutes later 'keeper Telford, was pressed into action, making two superb reaction saves in the space of a minute.

The first from a close-range Kelly Smith effort, before tipping a scorching Alex Scott drive against the bar.

Leeds made sporadic forays into their opponents half with the tricky Jess Clarke causing Arsenal's left back some problems.

But most of their efforts were spent fighting a rearguard action against Arsenal's relentless attack.

Kelly Smith, regarded by her manager as the best player in the world, was a constant threat with her pace, power and invention.

Ironically, Leeds were the first to find the back of the net. Amada Barr, latching on to a punt upfield, calmly chipped over Arsenal 'keeper Emma Byrne but the linesman had flagged for off-side.

Leeds only other attack of note in an Arsenal-dominated first 45 came from veteran Sue Smith's near post corner that Byrne struggled punch clear.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Premier League champions broke the deadlock, but Telford, having the game of her life, ensured Leeds held out until the interval.

United started the second half with more attacking intent, but were caught napping when Rachel Yankey's through ball fell to Kelly Smith who clinically despatched a low drive past Telford.

Jayne Ludlow's neat finish and a deflected Lianne Sanderson shot put Arsenal on course for what was looking like a comfortable victory.

But Leeds dug deep and birthday girl Jessica Clarke headed Leeds back into the game after reacting first to a superb Sue Smith effort which cannoned back off the upright.

Roared on by a vocal travelling support, Leeds pressed forward but comeback hopes were ended when Kelly Smith tapped a late fourth to secure a deserved win.

It meant Arsenal lifted the trophy for a record ninth time.But Leeds can take heart from a battling performance which showed that, while they may lack Arsenal's experience, they possess an abundance of fighting spirit.

Leeds: Telford, Houghten, Bradley, Wright (Bonner 86), Culvin (Thackray 80), Walton, Moore (Sutcliffe 60), Holtham, Clarke, Barr, S Smith. Subs not used: Higgins, Hutton.

Arsenal: Byrne, Scott, White, Asante, Phillip, Ludlow, Grant (Tracey 74), Carney, K Smith, Yankey (Davison 74), Sanderson (Fleeting 74). Subs not used: Spencer, Flaherty.

Referee: A Ihringova (Shropshire).

Attendance: 24,582.

 
 
 

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