By Richard Clarke
In September 1987, Vic Akers started a Ladies team at Arsenal. It was a voyage into the unknown as the female form of the game was still in its infancy in England. Now, in their 20th year, they have finally reached their destination - the Uefa Women's Cup Final.
Arsenal secured a 3-0 victory over Brondby in the Semi-Final second leg at Boreham Wood FC on Saturday. They had brought back a handy 2-2 draw from Denmark in the first game so there was little doubt after they took the lead midway through the half through Rachel Yankey.
However, for good mesaure, Karen Carney thumped home a second just after the break and Julie Fleeting nodded home a simple third in injury time.
A healthy crowd of 1,293 enjoyed an historic afternoon for Arsenal FC. No other side from outside Germany or Sweden has ever contested the Final of Europe's top club competition.
The home side spent the opening stages camped just outside the Brondby area. They knew that an early goal would tip the balance even further in their favour.
However the Danes had wrestled the initiative by the quarter-hour. Still despite the odd scare there was little employment for Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne. The nearest they came was when Maiken Pape steered a header wide.
Gradually Arsenal re-asserted control. In the 23rd minute Yankey darted down the left and fired in a low shot to the keeper's left. The England international was full of pace and invention all afternoon.
The goal she scored in the 31st minute had an element of good fortune but, if anyone deserved it this afternoon, it was Yankey.
Fleeting strode down the left before switching the ball to the right. Alex Scott and Yankey combined for the latter to fire goalwards. The ball looped up off the covering defender and Lianne Sanderson's attempted flick home did enough to put off keeper Tine Cederkvist.
The ball bounced into the net rather apologetically. Arsenal did not mind a bit.
Brondby lost their poise after the goal and the home side looked to exploit their anxiety. In the 38th minute, Fleeting crossed low into the six-yard box and only the timely intervention of Gitte Andersen prevented Sanderson turning the ball home.
Stine Kjær Jensen slashed a shot over from Miken Pape's lay-back four minutes from time but Carney nearly added a second when her deep, swirling left-wing free-kick nearly crept home at the far post.
In fact her goal would come eight minutes after the restart. Yankey's low, left-wing cross eluded everyone in the area and found Carney at the far post. She steadied herself and drilled in a low shot.
Seconds later, Fleeting would have ended any faint Danish hopes but her header flew just wide.
Brondby now had to gamble. On the hour, Cathrine Sørensen had two chances to reduce the arrears. First she appeared on the right wing and fired into the sidenetting then she flicked a shot into the arms of Byrne from point blank range. It was a clear chance and she beat the ground in frustration.
The game was now stretched. Jensen fired over at one end then Fleeting dallied in front of goal at the other.
In the final seconds of normal time Byrne saved Pape's cheeky far-post header. It would be their last hope.
In injury time Jayne Ludlow clipped a 25-yard shot on to the bar and Fleeting poached a header from close range.
Job done, history made. Now for the Final in April.
Our ladies line up pre-match
Rachel Yankey scores our opener
Karen Carney makes it 2-0
Sanderson leaps on the scorer
Gunnersaurus joins the celebrations!
The ladies open the Champagne!
The corks fly!
"We're in the final!"
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Carney 80
- Fleeting Yellow Card
- Yankey Yellow Card
- Davison 80