Today Anushree has invited Emmet McEvoy to return and report on the Ladies Continental Cup Final. (@emmetmcevoy)
Frustration, determination and jubilation. Three words that adequately describe Arsenal Ladies’ Continental Cup final win against Lincoln last Friday.
For 75 minutes the match was worryingly reminiscent of the two Women’s Super League encounters as the Gunners just couldn’t find a way through a resilient Lincoln defence.
Then the breakthrough finally came when Kim Little’s superb pass sent Ellen White clear and the England international buried the ball past Karen Bardsley. The relief was evident and they sealed the win thanks to a wonderful solo effort from the Little in the dying minutes.
The four dropped points against the Lady Imps earlier in the season in no small part cost the Ladies their WSL title, as well as Champions League qualification, so they could have been forgiven for going into the Cup final with a score to settle and started with intent.
Dan Carter drew a smart stop out of Lincoln ‘keeper Bardsley after just three minutes before White headed over minutes later.
Rick Passmoor’s side grew into the game but it was still the Gunners who were creating the chances. White tested Bardsley again after 18 minutes before Jordan Nobbs and Rachel Yankey both saw efforts miss the target.
Lincoln’s only effort of note in the first half came when Bonnie Horwood’s deflected shot left Emma Byrne stranded but went just wide.
Arsenal were inches away from breaking the deadlock moments later when Little’s goalbound shot was brilliantly blocked on the line by Casey Stoney as a frustrating half came to an end.
The second half began in much the same way. Kerr must have been wondering if it was going to be one of those days when, after 52 minutes, Little picked out White a few yards from goal but she slipped at the vital moment and the chance was gone. Moments later she hit the post with a header with Bardsley beaten.
Still they came forward and still they created chances. Katie Chapman volleyed wide after the hour before Yankey fired over following more good work from Little.
Bardsley frustrated the Ladies again when she denied Carter after 74 minutes but, moments later, the breakthrough finally arrived.
Unsurprisingly, Little was the architect. She showed some smart footwork in midfield before playing a perfectly-weighted, defence-splitting pass to send White clear. The England striker took a touch before rifling a shot past Bardsley into the top corner.
The relief was almost palpable but there was still a scare to overcome when Little (of course) cleared an effort off the line following a scramble in the Arsenal box.
To their credit and despite soaking up copious amounts of pressure, the Lady Imps were very much in the game until the outstanding Little wrapped up the win with a few minutes remaining.
The Scotland international picked up the ball in the opposing half and went on a mazy run, beating three players before arrowing a shot into the bottom corner.
The relief and jubilation was there for all to see at the final whistle as the Ladies put a difficult few weeks behind them and wrapped up the Continental Cup for the third year running.
After the match, Kerr was unsurprisingly annoyed at what she saw as unfair doubting of her team, and the stats back her up. Despite losing the league title, the Ladies are unbeaten in any competition since the first game of the season. They had the best defensive record in the division and the Cup win was their 40th – fortieth – honour in just 21 years. But for the points deduction, they would have finished 2nd in the WSL and qualified for next season’s Champions League.
“The way I see it is that we would have had a Champions League spot if we hadn’t received the points deduction and we’ve won two out of three domestic trophies,” Kerr told Arsenal.com. “For anybody who is doubting the talents we’ve got at this Club or how good we are as a team I think the facts are there for everyone to see.”
With a domestic cup double already secured, the Ladies won 7-1 in Kazakhstan against SSHVSM Kairat yesterday to all but seal passage to the last-16 of the Champions League. They have to win the competition to be in it next year, and there was no better way to start.
‘Till next time.