Sunderland Ladies moved into the Semi Final of the League Cup as they bid to retain the trophy they won at the end of last season. In a scrappy game played in freezing conditions the current National Premier League Champions made hard work of beating a well organised Cardiff City side who pushed them all the way. Beth Mead had given The Lady Black Cats a first half lead before Sophie Williams added a second late on to calm the nerves and seal the victory.
Both sides seemed to be sounding each other out as the early exchanges were confined to midfield. Sophie Williams made ground on the left before hitting a cross which Rhian Nokes collected ahead of the on rushing Natalie Gutteridge. Then Ellie Christon and Kelly McDougall combined well to release Beth Mead but Nokes blocked the shot. At the other end Nadia Lawrence broke clear but Rachael Laws was out smartly to smother the danger. The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute when Vicki Greenwell broke up a City attack and fed the ball to skipper Steph Bannon who in turn released Williams on the right. Her fine cross was helped on by Gutteridge for Mead to hit a low drive from the left edge of the box and into far corner leaving Nokes helpless. Cardiff continued to test the Sunderland back line on the break as Ellie Smith combined with Lawrence to set up Katie Aldridge but her effort lifted well over the bar. Soon after the tricky Aldridge broke through again but this time she was denied by a fine Becky Salicki Challenge. Cardifff were playing a very high line at the back and Keira Ramshaw beat the offside trap to run through before pulling the ball back for Williams to have a fierce shot beaten away and Rachel Furness followed up to hit a thunderbolt effort which Nokes did well to turn around the post.
HT... Sunderland WFC 1 vs 0 Cardiff City LFC
Sunderland pushed for a second goal from the kick off as Williams crossed into the box but Nokes palmed the ball away as Mead closed in. Gutteridge intercepted a clearance to release Williams on the left but her effort on goal went agonisingly wide of the upright. Then a free kick from McDougall saw a header from Salicki scrambled away. Cardiff were still proving dangerous and following a defensive lapse Paige Stewart closed in on goal only for Laws to come out quickly and gather the ball bravely. Williams and Ramshaw had efforts beaten away before The Wearsiders gained some breathing space with their second goal in the 80th minute. Mead intercepted a short goal kick to bear down on goal and she rounded the keeper before pulling the ball back for Williams to tap home. Cardiff still didn�t give up as Aldridge and Lawrence linked well before being denied by a fine tackle from Christon with Greenwell completing the clearance. Sunderland almost made it three in the dying seconds amidst an almighty scramble in the visitors box. Mead ran through and her shot was parried away by Nokes but Mead picked it up again only to be denied once more by the keeper and as the ball broke to Williams a defender managed to hack it away from danger.
FT... Sunderland WFC 2 vs 0 Cardiff City LFC
Manager Mick Mulhern was realistic at the final whistle....�It was a tough game against a well organised side. Obviously after a few weekends without a competitive game we were a bit rusty. I�m pleased with my players and it�s a sign of a good team who can dig in and win ugly.�
Sunderland...Laws, Christon, Bannon, Salicki, Greenwell, Ramshaw, McDougall(McFadden), Furness, Williams(Atkinson), Gutteridge(Sutcliffe), Mead.
Subs(not used)...Caldwell, Chidester.
Next up for the Lady Black Cats is a trip to Yorkshire on Sunday (17 Feb) for a top of the table clash with Leeds United. The Club are hoping to put a supporters bus on for this fixture, if you are interested please click here for more information.