Arsenal reach FA Cup final with comfortable win over Brighton
- Credit: PA
Arsenal set up an FA Cup final with London rivals Chelse after a 3-0 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday afternoon.
It turned out to be a ruthless second half for the 14 time cup winners scoring all three goals in the second half to send them on their way to Wembley Stadium as Kim Little, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson found the net.
Jordan Nobbs had the first shot off the game when she was picked out on the edge of the area following a corner but she fizzed her strike over the top of the bar.
Jonas Eidevall’s side started on the front foot with their high press boxing Brighton into their own half, Mead burst into the box on eight minutes before pulling the ball across goal but the Seagulls cleared the danger.
Arsenal were dominating the play ,as Nobbs forced Megan Walsh into a save when she fired in a shot that lacked direction and resulted in an easy save for the Seagulls keeper.
Albion were frustrating Arsenal with their defensive set-up however, on 21 minutes the Gunners should have been ahead when Caitlin Foord was played in on goal, but could only fire her shot straight into the body of Walsh who grabbed the loose ball ahead of Mead.
Eidevall’s troops carved open another good opportunity a few minutes later when Noelle Maritz whipped in a good cross for Foord who headed off target when the Australian international should have scored.
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Arsenal were getting the ball out into the wide areas at ease with Maritz putting in another good cross for Nikita Parris, but once more she could only direct her header wide.
With 30 minutes gone Mead was next to test the resilience of the Brighton defence as she skipped through before blazing her shot over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
During that move Mead was caught by a Brighton defender ,but the referee waved away the Gunners protests for a penalty as she was caught after she got her shot away.
The Gunners kept plugging away trying to break down a stubborn Albion side managed by former England manager Hope Powell,with the next talking point coming on 38 minutes.
Mead whipped in a cross for Parris who looped her header over Walsh but Victoria Williams was on the line for the Seagulls to clear the danger to keep the game at 0-0.
Brighton had their first opening on 39 minutes when they hit Arsenal on the counter attack with Aileen Whelan being played in but she fired wide from a narrow angle.
Arsenal had the final opportunity of a frustrating first half as Walsh reacted well to punch away a cross from Parris with the very much Inform Mead lurking.
Arsenal began the second half the way they finished the first very much on top , when Williamson fizzed in a low cross that was hacked away by the Brighton defence.
Foord then was presented with another glorious chance when she was picked out with a cross but could only direct her free header into the gloves of Walsh.
However, on 50 minutes the Gunners finally took the lead as Mead drove into the area and had the vision and composure to pick out Little who took a touch before hooking her effort into the net to the sound of sheer relief around Meadow Park.
Four minutes later and it was two for Eidevall’s side, with the red hot Mead scoring when she drove down the wing before exchanging passes with Nobbs and then slotting across goal and into the far corner of the net to give the Gunners breathing space.
Walsh put in an excellent performance for Brighton as she made yet another fine save when Mead and Nobbs linked up yet again ,Mead putting the ball on a plate for the midfielder who somehow had her low shot kept out by a world class save.
Brighton then had a half chance for themselves via former Gunner Danielle Carter who scored the winner for Arsenal the last time they won the FA Cup ,but she was denied by a fine challenge from Williamson.
The Seagulls then had another opening with Emma Koivisto working her way into a shooting position however she failed to trouble Manuela Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal hitting her shot wide.
Brighton were finding Mead a nightmare to deal with ,when the Arsenal number 9 created another fine chance for herself getting into a shooting position but she bent it just over the top.
Eidevall made his first changes in the game on 66 minutes bringing off Foord and Lia Walti replacing them with Mana Iwabuchi and Frida Maanum.
Albion weren’t creating much but did have half chances in the game as Zinsberger fumbled a cross before the ball fell kindly to Carter, but her volley was easily held by the recovering keeper.
Arsenal broke away and could have wrapped up their win as Iwabuchi charged down the left and managed to get her shot away on goal but Walsh made a fairly routine save.
However, the match was wrapped up several minutes later when Williamson netted her third Gunners goal of the season when the 24-year-old met a corner from Mead to plant her header beyond Walsh and into the net.
With just over five minutes left Arsenal made another two changes with Maritz and Jennifer Beattie being replaced with Anna Patten and Simone Boye Sørensen.
Arsenal then started to just keep the ball knowing that their job was done, but had one final opportunity when Little was played in but drilled her effort into the side-netting.
There was time for one more substitution when Williamson was replaced by Teyah Goldie for the final few seconds of the clash as Arsenal booked their place at Wembley.
Arsenal: Zinsberger, Maritz (Patten 82), Williamson (Goldie 90), Beattie (Boye Sorensen 83), McCabe, Little, Walti (Maanum 65), Mead, Nobbs, Foord (Iwabuchi 65), Parris.
Unused substitutes: Williams, Cull, Houssein, Hennessy.
Brighton: Walsh, Le Tissier, Kerkdijk, Williams (Brazil 63), Gibbons, Green (Koivisto 51) Connolly, Whelan, Carter, Simpkins (Lee 51), Kaagman (Symonds 79).
Unused substitutes: Babajide, Bance, Robinson, Angel.
Referee: Abigail Byrne