Kim Little brace helps Arsenal beat Doncaster Rovers Belles
Arsenal Ladies seal their fourth win to keep up pace with Women's Super League leaders Birmingham
Arsenal Ladies continued their recovery from a home defeat by Birmingham City last week with a convincing 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers Belles on Saturday.
England international Ellen White opened the scoring after just seven minutes, before two second-half goals from Kim Little sealed all three points for the Gunners.
The first half was a tight affair, but both teams had early chances. Belles captain Katie Holtham’s goal-bound effort on five minutes was deflected into the arms of Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne after good work down the left from Precious Hamilton.
The deadlock was broken just two minutes later. Rachel Yankey supplied a superb ball into the box, and White rose above everyone to power a header past Helen Alderson.
Despite going behind, the Belles were still in the game in the first half, and were able to restrict Arsenal’s fluid attack without ever really threatening Byrne.
Arsenal almost doubled their lead on 25 minutes when Danielle Carter was alone in the six-yard box, but she skewed the ball wide before having her blushes spared by the offside flag.
The Belles had their best chance to equalise just after the half-hour mark when a fantastic pass from Hamilton on the right sent O’Gorman through on goal, but her firm shot was well blocked by Byrne.
Then it was almost dejÃƒÂ vu time for the Belles as White came inches away from doubling the Arsenal lead just before the break, but she couldn’t make contact with Yankey’s cross.
The Belles had the first chance of the second half with Vicky Exley setting up O’Gorman, but the Irish international’s low shot was well saved by compatriot Byrne.
Unhappy with their first half performance, Arsenal immediately responded as Byrne launched the ball into the Belles half.
The home side failed to deal with the kick, and Little pounced on the loose ball outside of the box to drive a half-volley past a helpless Alderson.
Julie Fleeting then headed a Yankey cross against the bar, but Little was in the perfect spot to head into an empty net for her second of the game.
Belles manager John Buckley said the second goal decided the outcome, as had been the case in their 4-1 defeat at home by Chelsea last month.
“I do believe that the second goal changed the game,” he said. “It was like a child’s goal you’d see in a park.
“The first centre back came in underneath it, then the second shouted, came in, and should have headed it. There’s no point in playing there if you’re not going to do that.
“The second goal disappointed me. I thought for the next 20-25 minutes they [Arsenal] ran the show. In the last 10-15 minutes we picked it up, and even with the opportunities we created, we never got the bodies forward, and that’s something you can mark down to fitness.
“The reason obviously it was a bad goal was because people’s heads dropped, we gave possession away, if you constantly give possession away you know you’re in trouble. When we had control of the ball, and we were brave with the ball, we created things, and that is a mindset.
“We do have a lot of young players, but that’s a learning curve for them.”
Arsenal coach Laura Harvey was happy with her team’s second-half performance after a tired first half showing.
“Second half I was more pleased,” she said. “First half we were sloppy, and lethargic, and we looked like we’d had six times in 14 days, which we have. Second half we actually got the ball down, and started playing more, and Kim Little showed her ability with her goals.”
The Gunners return to London to prepare for Thursday’s trip to Filton to take on Bristol Academy in a dress rehearsal of the FA Women’s Cup Final.
Doncaster, meanwhile, prepare for their third home game in eight days as they host Everton Ladies in the second televised game of the season on ESPN on the same day.
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Alderson, Karlsson, Sjoman, Turner, Williams (Cunningham 83), Exley (Owen 78), Holtham (c), Lipka, O’Gorman, Hamilton, Hall (Cox 69). Subs Not Used: Earps (GK), Bright
Byrne, Beattie (Houghton 57), Fahey, Grant, Flaherty, Little, Chapman (c) (Coombs 84), Nobbs, Carter (Fleeting 50), Yankey, E. White. Subs Not Used: Spencer (GK), Tracy.
Goals: White 7, Little 47, 68