Megan Bell (45)



Linfield Ladies defeated Crusaders Strikers under the Solitude lights in the first of the League Cup Semi Finals. In a tight and tense Semi Final the Belfast Blues emerged 1-0 winners to kept a domestic clean sweep alive.

It was the Shore Road side that started the brighter with Megan Beattie testing Linfield keeper Nicole Adams from just inside the box. Beattie could only fire straight at Adams from a defence splitting pass from Emily Wilson. Mid way through the half Linfield started to enjoy more possession and Northern Ireland international Kirsty McGuinness headed wide from a Megan Bell cross. Blues midfielder Sarah Venney then had a strike from distance but Kirsty McCaughtry in the Crues goal saved well.

McGuinness was beginning to cause Crusaders problems down the left wing and she rattled the post on 34 minutes. As the half progressed Linfield began to dominate and went ahead on the stroke of half time.

A perfectly weighted McGuinness cross-found Megan Bell at the back post who side footed home from 6 yards to give the Blues at narrow half time lead.

After the break Crusaders picked up the tempo and Captain Julie Nelson had two quick fire shots blocked early in the half.

At the other end Abbie Magee went around McCaughtry but could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.

Then came a golden opportunity for Crusaders when the ball bounced perfectly for Danielle McDowell but she fired wide from inside the box. The Crusaders pressure continued and Emily Wilson rattled the cross bar with a stunning half volley as Adams could only hope the effort was going wide. Wilson was causing the Blues defence problems and she had another good opportunity but fired straight at Adams on 66 minutes.

With Crusaders really pushing for the equaliser goalscorer Megan Bell picked the ball up in her own half drove forward but shot over the bar for Linfield.

With 10 minutes remaining the game was getting stretched and McGuinness was the next to go on a mazy run and fire a shot at goal but McCaughtry tipped the powerful strike over the bar.

The last opportunity fell to Linfield in the 89th minute as Venney’s thunderous shot crashed against the cross bar after a fantastic Linfield flowing move.  Crusaders enjoyed possession for most of injury time but didn’t really threaten the Linfield goal.

It finished 1-0 to Linfield and they can now dream of a domestic clean sweep in all four competitions.

Linfield will face the winner of Newry City Ladies and Sion Swifts Ladies in the League Cup Final.

Crusaders Strikers: McCaughtry, Nelson, Hamilton, Moore, H. Mearns, McDowell, Murphy, Wilson, McNeill, Beattie, McCann subs Ogle (not used), Carson (replaced McNeill 83), Wright (replaced H. Mearns 76), Beggs (not used), Doak (replaced Beattie 68)

Linfield Ladies: Adams, Haddock, Robson, Myles, Hutton, Corry, Venney, Ennis, McGuinness, Magee, Bell subs Timoney (replaced Ennis 65), McFrederick (not used), McDaniel (not used), Burrows (not used), McDade (not used)

Referee: Andrew Woodside

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