THE DREAM turned to anguish for Pompey Ladies as they fell to an agonising 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa in the FA Women’s Premier League Cup semi-final.
Sarah Kempson’s cracking goal – which pulled the Blues level at 1-1 in the 75th minute – proved not enough to spark a revival.
Villa struck the winner, just two minutes later, to secure a place in the final against Leeds.
It was the second semi-final defeat in three seasons for Pompey.
They lost to national division Barnet in 2011 as a southern division side.
This time it was a level playing field with Pompey and Villa in the national division.
That made the defeat even harder to take.
Manager Vanessa Raynbird and her team had fancied their chances of going all the way.
But it wasn’t to be.
Raynbird said: ‘It was a real disappointment. I am absolutely gutted.
‘We felt it was our season to get that – the biggest opportunity we have had.
‘Two years ago against Barnet we were a league below and underdogs.
‘This time it was a massive missed opportunity for us to get to a national cup final.
‘You don’t get many chances at that.’
Pompey started the match well and seemed to be enjoying the occasion.
They took the game to their hosts in the bright sunshine at Boldmere St Michaels FC.
Villa were forced back and it seemed only a matter of time before the Blues broke the deadlock.
But as dark clouds gathered, the brightness ebbed away from Pompey’s play.
And Raynbird’s side pressed the self-destruct button just before the break.
Villa sent their big centre-backs forward for a set piece and Pompey failed to defend the danger.
Jade Richards profited to open the scoring.
‘It was completely against the run of play,’ said Raynbird.
‘We had so much of the game – we absolutely dominated the first half.’
The goal clearly rocked Pompey.
They were far from at their fluent best in the second half.
But Kempson – who had scored in the 3-2 win over University of Portsmouth in the Portsmouth FA Cup on Thursday – cracked in a fantastic equaliser on 75 minutes.
There was not time for Pompey to gather a head of steam, though.
Villa bagged their second goal on 77 minutes.
Chloe Jones was in the right place to net – again from a set piece – to see them through.
‘Kempo scored a cracking goal with her left foot but we let one in two minutes later – it was criminal,’ added Raynbird.