Arsenal beat Sunderland to clinch their fourth FA Women's Cup.
Arsenal 2-1 Sunderland
The FA Women’s Cup sponsored by E.ON
1pm, Monday 4 May 2009
Pride Park, Derby County FC
Arsenal won their fourth successive FA Women's Cup when they edged out Sunderland at Pride Park.
Katie Chapman's first half goal set up victory as Vic Akers' Premier League team continued their dominance of the English game.
And a late strike from Kim Little settled the game after Arsenal had been frustrated by the Northern Premier Division side.
Even then, Sunderland would not lie down and Kelly McDougall scored with the last kick of the game. Sunderland refused to cave in with goalkeeper Helen Alderson making a string of key saves.
In the end, it was Alderson's mistake that let in Chapman for the opening goal but Arsenal, who have lost a number of important players this season, struggled to kill the game off in front of a crowd of 23,291 at Derby's ground until Little scored in stoppage time.
Sunderland's hopes were dented when they lost midfielder Sophie Williams who was taken off on a stretcher in the second half and taken to hospital after collapsing following an illness.
The result had a special significance for Arsenal as Gunners coach Akers is stepping down at the end of the season after a 22-year connection with the club.
Arsenal dominated the early stages and Suzanne Grant came close to opening the scoring when she slid the ball past Alderson but wide of the target.
Sunderland weathered the early storm and threatened the Arsenal goal after 14 minutes. Sophie Williams broke free on the left and crossed for Jordan Nobbs who just failed to make a clean contact in front of goal. Williams then tested goalkeeper Emma Byrne with an angled drive.
That woke Arsenal up with Little trying her luck from long range and Alderson saving from the influential Gemma Davison.
But Alderson had a lucky escape when she fumbled a shot from Suzanne Grant only to then save well from Rachel Yankey.
Arsenal were stepping up their game as the half hour mark approached and Davison found Little whose shot was pushed on to the post by Alderson.
And Akers' side finally netted after 33 minutes when Alderson found Davison's shot too hot to handle and England midfielder Chapman followed up to score from the rebound.
Arsenal could have had another just before the break when Little set up Suzanne Grant but again her shot was wide.
Sunderland, who beat Chelsea to reach the final, started the second half strongly when Williams crossed for the advancing Natalie Gutteridge but Byrne claimed it.
But Davison had other ideas and chipped just over the bar.
There was a worrying moment for Sunderland when Williams needed several minutes of treatment after going down injured in a seemingly innocuous challenge before being carried off.
Substitute Helen Lander had the chance to put the game out of Sunderland's reach when she raced clear but Alderson again saved her side and stuck out a foot to block the effort.
Little eased Arsenal's nerves when she forced the ball home from six yards but Sunderland did not stop pushing and tested Byrne before McDougall gave Mick Mulhern's team a deserved goal with defender Lucy Bronze named played of the match.
Byrne; Bassett (White, 90), Grant C, Flaherty, Fahey; Davison (Ross, 82), Ludlow, Chapman, Yankey; Little, Grant S. (Lander, 62)
Alderson; Bronze, Greenwell, Bannon, Halliday; Staniforth, McDougall, Nobbs, Williams (Devine, 62); Gutteridge (Danby 83), Stokes
Emma Everson & Sarah Garratt
photos Janos Schmidt