Women's FA Cup final: Arsenal 2-0 Bristol Academy

By Tony Leighton Women's football correspondent
Julie Fleeting
Fleeting celebrates her strike just after the half-hour mark

Scotland colleagues Kim Little and Julie Fleeting scored to win Arsenal the FA Women's Cup for the 11th time.

Twelve months after losing for the first time in a final, the Gunners proved too strong for a Bristol team making their debut final appearance.

The Gunners scored the opener when Little finished off a fine solo run and Fleeting's header doubled the lead.

Arsenal comfortably saw out the match at Coventry's Ricoh Arena, although Academy's Helen Bleazard hit the bar.

For long spells Arsenal held the upper hand despite Academy, three times semi-final losers to Arsenal, starting the game well.

Having held their opponents to a 2-2 Super League draw last week, the West Country side went into the game with justifiable confidence.

And after just two minutes central defender Jemma Rose headed narrowly wide from a corner by captain Corrinne Yorston, who was in Arsenal's defeated side last year.

But following the early exchanges the Gunners took control and went ahead when midfielder Little jinked her way past two defenders to shoot home in the 19th minute.

The advantage was doubled 13 minutes later, a frantic series of incidents in the Academy penalty area leading to the goal.

After a Fleeting shot hit the bar left winger Rachel Yankey crossed for striker Ellen White to send in a header that was well saved by goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.

But when the ball ran out for a throw-in it was quickly taken for left back Niamh Fahey to float in a cross that Fleeting headed into the top corner of the net.

Little might have scored again four minutes into the second half, but her low 12-yard shot was stopped by the diving Chamberlain.

A further goal at that stage would almost certainly have finished off Bristol, but they hit back well to have their best spell of the match.

Left winger Bleazard was unfortunate not to reduce the arrears in the 68th minute, her 20-yard free-kick bouncing off the bar.

But Little was then denied again by Chamberlain, who spread herself to make a brilliant save from the midfielder's 81st minute volley.

And the Gunners comfortably played out the closing stages to claim the trophy for the fifth time in six years.

Both teams, through reaching the FA Cup final, have qualified for next season's Champions League - Arsenal for the ninth time in 10 years, Bristol foi the first time ever.

Arsenal manager Laura Harvey:

"As a group the last 12 months have been tough.

"We said we wouldn't forget that feeling of last year and that has been our thing through the FA Cup - we wanted to make sure we brought it back home.

"We took our foot off the pedal in the second half, but the way we played in the first half no domestic team would have lived with us."

Bristol boss Mark Sampson:

"We could have been dead and buried by half-time.

"It would have been easy to throw in the towel, roll over and come away with a hammering, but we showed great character and gave it a real go in the second half.

"We weren't expected to be competitive in the Super League, but we've shown we can do that also we can get to a FA Cup final and qualify for Europe.

"So as much as we're disappointed with this result, it's been a great experience for the girls and it will be a positive step in the long term."

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Byrne; Houghton, Grant, Flaherty, Fahey; Nobbs, Chapman; White, Little, Yankey (Carter 90); Fleeting (Beattie 70).

Substitutes not used: Tracy, Spencer, Coombs.

Bristol Academy (4-2-3-1): Chamberlain; McCatty, Rose, Yorston, Culvin (Clark 68); Hoogendijk, Daley; Dykes, Fishlock (Billson 46), Bleazard; Heatherson (Green 84).

Substitutes not used: Windell, Jones, Green.

Attendance: 13,885