Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa: Gunners stun woeful Villa to reach second successive Conti Cup final

Meadow Park played host to a huge night under the lights on Wednesday, as Arsenal faced Aston Villa in the first Conti Cup semifinal; with the match set to be season-defining for both sides. Current holders Arsenal came into this fixture off the back of a nervy 1-0 North London Derby win – however having fallen behind in the title race, this competition presents their best chance of silverware this season.

For Carla Ward’s Aston Villa, their second semifinal in as many seasons is an opportunity for the club to win their first-ever major trophy – a monumental achievement in what has been a disappointing season.

ARS: Zinsberger; Catley, Wubben-Moy, Williamson, McCabe; Wälti, Cooney-Cross; Russo, Maanum, Mead; Blackstenius

AVL: Leat; Pacheco, Patten, Turner, Mayling; Dali, Corsie, Nobbs; Hanson, Daly, Lehmann

A mad two-minute spell kicked off a suffocating half of football for Aston Villa, as Arsenal went 2-0 up within 11 minutes; Stina Blackstenius making an immediate impact in her return to the starting 11. Her first was a vintage goal as she hung off the Aston Villa backline and got in behind from a Frida Maanum pass, with the second coming via a poacher’s finish after Villa failed to clear their lines from a Beth Mead ball in, allowing the Scandinavian a simple header from six yards out.

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An electric Meadow Park didn’t have to wait long for a third, as Maanum scored the goal of the game with a spectacular first time hit from thirty yards out into the top left corner.

If they hadn’t already, this is arguably when the Aston Villa heads dropped – as they were completely unable to deal with Mead’s aggressive runs from the right-hand side and Maanum’s quick feet.

The final nail in the Aston Villa coffin came in the 39th minute, when Blackstenius completed her rapid hat-trick as Villa again failed to clear their lines, this time from a deep free kick with the ball falling to Lotte Wubben-Moy at the back post. The England defender merely had to deliver it back into the six-yard box, for the patient Blackstenius to pounce again.

Things managed to get even worse for Carla Ward in the dying minutes of a brutal first half as she was forced into replacing Kirsty Hanson with Ebony Salmon, with their dreams of a first-ever major final appearance looking all but dead.

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Arsenal started the second half off in familiar fashion, with Maanum having a goal disallowed after she put the ball in from two yards out – however, they were still relentless in their attack in those opening minutes with Steph Catley seeing a long-range effort fly just over the bar.

Aston Villa slowly started to find themselves in better positions, with their best chance of the game coming from a driving Jordan Nobbs run, but the ball in from the ex-Arsenal midfielder was cleared over the bar for a corner.

Substitute Ebony Salmon was very lively after coming on and she managed to get in behind on the counter with a purposeful run into the box, winning a corner as it was excellently cleared behind by the in-form Wubben-Moy.

Unsurprisingly, the game did fizzle out as Arsenal settled into a professional, controlled performance, with their only chance of note late on coming in the 83rd minute as Kim Little played a beautifully weighted through ball for Caitlin Foord on the counter, but the Australian’s pass to Blackstenius was skied over the bar.

The final highlight at the end of the game was 18-year-old Vivianne Lia coming on for a late cameo, much to the joy of the restless Arsenal fans who had ended a joyous night at Meadow Park. A comfortable 4-0 win puts Arsenal in their second consecutive Conti Cup final in a row, with the Gunners facing either Chelsea or Manchester City on March 31st at Molineux.