What the papers say

Tuesday 7 May 2002

The Independent

The result was predictable but not the scoreline as Doncaster Belles, six times winners of the Women's FA Cup but strictly amateurs, ran Europe's only professional women's team close in an intriguing final yesterday.

Fulham, in their second season as professionals, have won all 34 of their League and Cup games, scored 267 goals, collected the Southern Division title and with it, promotion to the National Division of the Women's Premier League, in a canter.

En route to winning the Premier League Cup and now their first FA Cup, they have beaten what were formerly acknowledged as the two best teams in the country - League champions Arsenal and Doncaster, who were National Division runners-up to the Gunners as well as coming off second best in the Cup final.

The Cottagers will undoubtedly be favourites to win the top division next season, though if opponents show as much determination as the Belles did at Selhurst Park it will not be the cakewalk that they trod to the Southern Division championship.

The Doncaster manager, Julie Chipchase, said: "It will take a very good team to beat Fulham, but we'll give it our best as we did today. We had a game plan and for a big part of the match it worked well. We did really well in the first half and even though it was difficult to come back after they'd got their two goals we pulled ourselves together and got back into the game. The girls are massively disappointed, but credit to them - they gave everything they had but on the day it just wasn't good enough."

Fulham won the game with two goals in five second-half minutes. Their winger Rachel Yankey curled home a superbly struck 20-yard free-kick then, on the hour, her England colleague Katie Chapman volleyed in what proved the winner from a similar distance.

Doncaster hit back within 60 seconds, striker Jody Handley heading home a Karen Burke free-kick, but the Yorkshire side never seriously threatened an equaliser despite having plenty of possession in the closing stages.

The professionals might have got a late goal or two but were held at bay by a resolute defence in which Mandy Lowe was outstanding. So effective was her marking of striker Marianne Pettersen that the Norwegian international rarely looked likely to add to her season's tally of 86 goals.

The Fulham manager, Gaute Haugenes, said: "Donny gave us a tough game but it was what we expected. People made us favourites because we are the professionals but we knew it would not be easy.

"It will be the same in the Premier League next year. We don't have the experience of playing teams like this on a weekly basis and it may take a year for us to adapt - but I think we will be good enough to compete for the League title in our first season."

The Guardian

League champions Fulham have won the AXA FA Women's Cup, beating Doncaster Belles 2-1.
The teams remained deadlocked at the break, but three quick fire goals, just after the interval, settled the tie.

Fulham's Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman, and Belles' Jody Handley were the scorers.
The game began at breakneck speed with Fulham keeping the Belles deep in their own half. Despite the pressure they failed to make the most of their opportunities.

The Belles battled their way back to the game and came close to opening the scoring from a Karen Burke free-kick.

Fulham's Kristy Moore wasted the London side's best opportunity of the half. After doing the hard work to control the ball in the box she then sent it rocketing over the bar with no one to beat but goalkeeper Leanne Hall.

A moment of individual excellence from Gemma Hunt then threatened the Fulham defence as she threaded the ball through to Walker. But Astrid Johannessen stood tall and palmed away Walker's fierce shot with one hand to end the danger.

The second half began as the first with Fulham penning the Yorkshire side deep in their own half.

But this time they were rewarded on 55 minutes when Belles' Carly Hunt was booked for a reckless challenge and conceded a free-kick on the edge of the box. England forward Yankey stepped up and left Hall rooted to the spot as her curling shot found the bottom right hand corner of the net.

The London side extended their lead almost from the restart through Chapman. After the Belles had cleared the initial danger the ball fell to Chapman 25 yards out and she blasted the ball past a diving Hall.

But Doncaster pulled one back inside two minutes when Burke's cross was met by Handley who headed home.

Fulham substitute Sanchia Duncan could have put the game beyond reach but a combination of poor finishing and some excellent goalkeeping by Hall denied her.

The Belles pushed hard for the equaliser in the dying minutes but it was to be Fulham's day as they added the FA Women's Cup to their League championship and Premier League cup victories this season.

The Telegraph

The professionals eventually prevailed at Selhurst Park yesterday but it took some doing. Doncaster Belles battled bravely but Fulham won the AXA FA Women's Cup at the second time of asking. After losing out to London rivals Arsenal last year, Fulham were not about to make the same mistake twice.

The teams remained level at the break but three quick goals - from Fulham's Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman and Belles' Jody Handley - just after the interval settled the tie.

"It was a tough game but we expected a tough game," said Fulham manager Gaute Haugenes. "Many people put us as favourites but that is the price you pay for being professional.
"We know that Doncaster Belles play a physical game and that they are good at it. It's not easy when you play a tough opponent like we did today. But I think we did well and scored some fantastic goals."

The game began at breakneck speed with Fulham keeping Doncaster deep in their own half but they had to wait until 10 minutes into the second half, when Belles' Carly Hunt was booked for a reckless challenge and conceded a free kick on the edge of the box, for the pressure to pay off. England forward Yankey stepped up and beat Leanne Hall with a curling shot into the corner of the net.

Fulham extended their lead almost from the restart through Chapman. After Doncaster had repelled an attack, the ball fell to Chapman 25 yards out and she made no mistake. Doncaster reduced the deficit inside two minutes when Handley headed home Karen Burke's cross.

The Times

The rest of the Premier League national division may care to look away now.

Fulham, 12 months after their Women's FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal, made amends yesterday by grinding out a victory, just about deserved, to post notice of their intent to compete for next season's top award. This may have been Fulham's fourth trophy of a staggering campaign but, in terms of the showpiece competition, the first Cup is always the sweetest.

Fresh from winning the Premier League southern division, the Premier League Cup and the London County Cup, Fulham prevailed in front of a 10,124 crowd at Selhurst Park with two goals inside five minutes from Rachel Yankey and Katie Chapman, the England internationals, early in the second half.

Doncaster Belles, runners-up in the national division, battled with heart and a sound game plan and showed their character by pulling a goal back through Jody Handley and keeping Fulham, the country's first full-time club, on their toes throughout. "We love games like that," Chapman said. "We're looking forward to more of the same next season. We're doing it not just for ourselves, we're doing it for the women's game as it looks to go professional. It will be tough next year but our aim will be to win the league."

"The Premier League next season - it's going to be great," Julie Chipchase, the Belles manager, said. "It's up to the rest of us to get our acts together and catch up. Our girls have careers and jobs and we do well to train together twice a week. We'd love to have four sessions a week but you have to be professional for that. That takes a lot of funding and facilities."

Those promoting women's football had hoped for a colourful advert, with the five-figure crowd and the BBC One cameras looking in, but it was as if the first half was played in black and white and slow-motion. The Belles' ploy of going one for one on Fulham's three-player forward line nullified the professionals' initial threat, although Kristy Moore should have done better, when in space and receiving Yankey's cross, than to blast wide of goal.

Belles had brought six coach-loads of supporters down to London with them and, wearing their replica yellow kits and cup final bandannas with pride, they sang their team on with gusto. Even if the crowd fell short of last year's record figure, when Arsenal's tight victory was acclaimed by 13,824 at the same venue, those in attendance created the kind of atmosphere of which Wimbledon can only dream.

The Doncaster following were almost rewarded midway through the first period. Gemma Hunt, the twin with the headscarf, made an incisive run before turning and playing Karen Walker into space. The England captain mustered reasonable power in her shot but Astrid Johannessen saved well.

Fulham may have won every game they have played this season, but it is doubtful that they have had to work this hard for victory. They must have expected their part-time opponents would tire in the second period, but Chipchase's team increased their work-rate after the interval.

Carly Hunt was cautioned for disputing her foul on Moore after 54 minutes but there was no arguing with the quality of Yankey's free-kick. From 25 yards, the England winger curled her shot home, left-footed, leaving Leanne Hall rooted to the spot. "When there's a big crowd, Rachel Yankey loves it," Gaute Haugenes, the Fulham manager, said. "Her goal was fantastic."

Haugenes claims Chapman would get in any national side the world over and the 19-year-old produced another masterful performance anchoring the midfield. Although she is progressing into a world-class defender, there must be a case for England employing such a talent in her favoured position.

When Margunn Haugenes's centre was headed out her way 30 yards from goal, Chapman took one touch to control the ball before looping her shot into the bottom corner of the net to put the seal on Fulham's superiority.