Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
The FA Women's Cup
7.45pm, Thursday 3 May 2012
Griffin Park, Brentford FC
Winning club will receive £2000 from The FA prize fund
A Player of the Match performance by Chelsea goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill helped the Blues reach their first ever FA Women's Cup Final, courtesy of a hard-fought 2-0 win over eleven-time winners Arsenal.
Helen Bleazard's 22nd-minute wonder strike put Matt Beard's side ahead and Dunia Susi's header with five minutes remaining ultimately sealed the win, but Chelsea were equally indebted to their young goalkeeper who was deputising for the injured skipper Carly Telford.
Quantrill made a string of outstanding saves to deny the Gunners, beginning her fine sequence by tipping a Kim Little effort onto the bar and completing her star performance by denying Alex Scott in added time.
She particularly frustrated Rachel Yankey in the second half with a number of fine stops, many of them deflected, causing her to demonstrate her reflexes.
Despite their late arrival at Griffin Park which caused the kick-off to be delayed by 15 minutes, the Blues started brightly in an attempt to catch the Cup holders cold, but it was Arsenal who registered the first shot at goal as Scott fired wide from 20 yards.
Just a couple of minutes later Scott's England team-mate Susi raced down the right for Chelsea before slipping Kate Longhurst into the Arsenal box and only a fine stop from Emma Byrne prevented the Gunners from falling behind.
The next chance fell to Arsenal stalwart Ciara Grant who glanced a header just over the top. Laura Harvey's side were left to rue that missed opportunity as Bleazard put Chelsea ahead with a wonderful strike in the 22nd minute.
Scott lost the ball inside her own half, the Welsh forward picked it up, drove forward and unleashed an unstoppable shot from 20 yards out which flew past Byrne into the top corner.
With the holders now having to score at least once to maintain their grip on The Cup, they increased the pressure on their London rivals and created a number of quick-fire efforts on the Chelsea goal and Yankey was involved each time.
With time running out, Arsenal boss Laura Harvey made an attacking tactical switch, bringing midfielder Gemma Davison on for centre back Grant, pushing Steph Houghton back into defence and asking Little to play a little further forward. Youngster Danielle Carter was then brought on in place of Beattie as time was running out.
They continued to press, but were hit by a sucker punch in the dying embers of the game as Susi headed Dani Buet's free-kick past Byrne and into the back of the net to confirm the win and seal a maiden appearance in The FA Women's Cup Final.
And there was still time for Quantrill to confirm her status as the game's outstanding player by denying Scott from close range in added time.
Chelsea will now face Birmingham City, themselves first time Finalists, at Ashton Gate on Saturday 26 May.
18 Sarah Quantrill, 2 Lara Fay, 3 Sophie Perry, 5 Gemma Bonner, 6 Kate Sherwood (4 Drew Spence, 60), 8 Dani Buet, 15 Helen Bleazard (7 Ashlee Hincks, 64), 16 Sophie Ingle, 17 Dunia Susi (C), 19 Laura Coombs, 20 Kate Longhurst (10 Helen Lander, 75)
Substitutes not used 9 Sue Lappin, 21 Victoria Williams
Manager Matt Beard
1 Emma Byrne, 2 Stephanie Houghton, 5 Gilly Flaherty, 7 Ciara Grant (12 Gemma Davison, 68), 8 Jordan Nobbs, 11 Rachel Yankey, 14 Jennifer Beattie (15 Danielle Carter, 78), 16 Kim Little, 17 Katie Chapman (C), 19 Niamh Fahey, 22 Alex Scott
Substitutes not used 3 Yvonne Tracy, 25 Hayley Ladd, 31 Sophie Harris
Manager Laura Harvey