Arsenal Ladies registered an exceptional 7-0 win in their FA Women’s Cup semi-final against Sunderland Ladies despite going down to 10 players with 73 minutes to go.
Pedro Losa rotated his squad going for the 4-3-3 formation with Van Veenendaal, Corredera, Rose, Stoney, Mitchell, Janssen, Losada, Nobbs, Carter, Pablos, Sanchon and Van De Donk. The subs were Williamson, Williams, McCabe and Smith. The strength of the squad meant there was no place on the teamsheet for Scott, Henning, Taylor and Oshoala, four full internationals, as well as Sampson and Kelly who were also missed out.
As expected Arsenal dominated possession early and Sunderland set up on hitting the Gunners on the break with their pacy forwards. One of those attacks led to a booking for Stoney and a dangerous free-kick early in the game.
It was quite clear that Pedro Losa and his staff had worked on a gameplan to unsettle Sunderland’s defensive block with many crossfield long balls used to find a player on the opposite wing from deep and a constant use of the wings to press the Sunderland full backs.
Then the game changed completely. Mitchell got booked for going through Mead’s leg to win a ball that she won. Mead stayed on the floor for a while but recovered and two minutes later Mitchell got booked again for fouling a player going past her on the wing.
That was a red card and another early reshuffle for Pedro Losa after the City away game. Off went Losada who had been totally anonymous in the first half an hour and on came Williamson at left-back. The Arsenal manager was quite bold playing now in a 4-2-3 formation that paid dividends.
In a bizarre situation, Sunderland never found the balance between attacking and defending despite having an extra player on the pitch. They never managed to stretch the Arsenal defence properly as they did not really look to use the wings to go behind the Arsenal full backs and went through the middle with some direct play.
You do wonder why they did not adjust but being a defensive minded team overall they did not manage to move away from their natural habit while Arsenal defended for their lives and were clinical on the break.
Van De Donk scored the opener following a great overlap and shot from the left from Janssen and the Gunners were 1-0 up at half time.
— Arsenal Ladies (@ArsenalLadies) April 18, 2016
In the second half, Arsenal managed to get behind Sunderland’s defense on a regular basis going through their midfield with unbelievable ease. Natalia went away on the left wing on the counter and put the perfect cross for the 2-0 goal.
Pedro Losa then sent Williams to shore things up in midfield and protect the lead, Corredera the right-back went off, Janssen went to take her place and Williams sat in midfield in front of the back four.
The Sunderland right-back Abbie Holmes decided she wanted her customary Borehamwood red card following the one that ended Kelly Smith’s season last year with a late and un-needed tackle from behind on Van De Donk. She was sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity and Williams converted the penalty for the 3-0. Scoring three while being down to 10 players was just fantastic.
Then with 10 versus 10 and Sunderland chasing the game, Arsenal scored an extra four goals to make it an unbelievable scoreline, giving 12 minutes to Smith late in the game coming on for Sanchon.
Overall a brilliant victory in difficult circumstances and Arsenal Ladies are on their way to Wembley. The FA Women’s Cup final will be played on Saturday the 14th of May at 2pm with the opposition Chelsea Ladies who beat Man City Women with a last second goal in extra time by Fran Kirby.