Arsenal Ladies goalkeeper prefers to avoid penalty shoot-outs despite FA Cup success against Notts County

Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal (right) celebrates with Kelly Smith after her vital saves in

Arsenal goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal (right) celebrates with Kelly Smith after her vital saves in the penalty shoot-out against Notts County Ladies. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Sari van Veenendaal admits the Gunners cannot keep relying on penalty shoot-outs following their second successive spot-kick triumph in the FA Women’s Cup.

The Dutch international goalkeeper saved three Notts County penalties on Sunday – her 26th birthday – to secure her side’s place in the last four of the competition.

Arsenal, who had also been victorious on penalties against Birmingham in the previous round, failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage after County striker Ellen White was sent off an hour into the game.

And Van Veenendaal, whose efforts clinched a 4-3 win in the shoot-out that followed the 2-2 draw at Meadow Park, feels Arsenal must become more clinical inside 90 minutes.

“It’s great that we won, but it wasn’t easy for us to go to the next round – this is the second time with extra time and penalties,” said the former FC Twente keeper.

“There’s always a bit of luck and I have some tricks for penalties, but I want to keep those to myself – you never know when you’ll have to use it again.

“Now we have the experience twice with penalties and I hope we learn from this – also for the league, because we have to do it better. We have to win games earlier, before the penalties.

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“We can do a lot better, we have a lot of good players and we want to fight for every ball. I think we’re working hard but not always together, so we have to learn from every match and improve ourselves.

“I can’t think about Wembley – it would be a big experience, but first we have to win the semi-final. The FA Cup is so important for this club, if you look at the history.”

Notts County, who were runners-up in the competition last year, made the better start on Sunday, with Aivi Luik heading wide and White failing to hit the target from the rebound after Jess Clarke had struck the bar.

Yet the Gunners went ahead in the 22nd minute when veteran forward Kelly Smith controlled a deep cross from Alex Scott and lashed a half-volley past Carly Telford.

Their lead lasted only two minutes, with slack defending enabling Sophie Bradley-Auckland to rise unchallenged and head home the equaliser from a free-kick.

And the visitors were in front just after the half-hour mark when White put Van Veenendaal under pressure at a cross and the ball rolled loose for Luik to tuck into the net.

Smith and Fara Williams both went close with free-kicks but, despite the dismissal of White for her second bookable offence, Arsenal were unable to break down their depleted opponents until nine minutes from the end of normal time.

Two of their substitutes combined for the equaliser, with winger Katie McCabe delivering a cross from the left that Natalia headed over the line.

Asisat Oshoala almost won it for the Gunners with a close-range header that Telford tipped over the bar and the same player went close in extra time, stabbing wide after Natalia had set up the opportunity.

But there was to be no winner and Van Veenendaal pulled off saves from Dani Buet, Leanne Crichton and Luik in the shoot-out, while Williams, Natalia and Smith all found the net for Arsenal before McCabe netted the decisive kick.

“People say when you win like that it tastes better – and it’s true, but we don’t want to be in that situation every time!” said Arsenal boss Pedro Martinez Losa.

“All credit to the opponents, they worked us hard but more credit to my players, in my opinion.”

Arsenal have been drawn at home against Sunderland in the semi-final. The tie is scheduled to take place on Sunday April 17.