By Matt Fortune
Arsenal Ladies saw their hopes of another English clean-sweep dashed by Everton on Thursday night. Three-quarters of last season's Quadruple had been won on home soil and, en route, Vic Akers' side had built up a proud 58-game winning run in domestic football. That too was ended in the East End.
Amy Kane's ice-cool finish after just seven minutes gave the Toffees their first ever League Cup triumph. Having gone out of Europe, Arsenal will now have to make do with their pursuit of the FA Cup and Premier League.
Before kick-off, the tie was billed as the Gunners' sternest examination in England and the Merseysiders arrived at Leyton Orient FC in bullish mood. Mo Marley's side claimed that they were the side capable of halting the Arsenal domestic juggernaut. It had been dismissed as nothing more than mind games.
In truth, after their early advantage, Everton threatened only fleetingly.
With the exception of Katie Chapman (pregnant), Akers had a full compliment of players to choose from. Mary Phillip recovered from a slight ankle concern to make the side, meaning the Gunners side that started was arguably the strongest XI.
Arsenal's run to the Final made typically intimidating reading - played four, scored 22 and conceded just two. Surely tonight was not a case of if but by how much?
However Akers has plenty of respect for Everton. Arsenal's opponents acquitted themselves well in their first Uefa Women's Cup campaign this season and boast their fair share of England internationals.
One of which was Jill Scott, who set up the only goal in the seventh minute. Racing onto a hopeful ball forward, she was afforded the freedom of Arsenal's final third. Scott had the presence of mind to look up and pick out the run of Kane. At the first time of asking the 21-year-old slotted home from just inside the box and across the despairing Emma Byrne.
Arsenal responded well but it took 17 minutes for Everton's watertight defence to show any signs of a leak. First, Faye White came within inches of connecting to long, hanging cross from the left then Kelly Smith's driving run and deft chip drew a fingertip save from Danielle Hill.
A moment of magic shortly after, again from Smith, nearly levelled things up. She pounced on a loose ball just inside the box and hoisted it over the approaching crowd towards the opposite top corner. However a combination of Fara Williams and the crossbar ensured Everton maintained their lead.
Smith continued to be the game's most exciting player. You got the sense if the Gunners were to rescue claw their way back in, the England international would be key.
Eight minutes before the break, the defending champion's best chance went begging. Julie Fleeting, Lianne Sanderson and Karen Carney were all guilty of passing up a decent shooting opportunity. It was the final act of a disappointing half for the Gunners. They would need to improve after the break.
A tepid start to the second half exploded into life as Sanderson stung the palms of Hill from distance. But, it was the Merseysiders who came closest to finding the net. Byrne, largely a bystander since the goal, made a sprawling save at the feet of Natasha Dowie to keep the Gunners in it.
Arsenal continued to plough a desperate furrow in search of an equaliser, but, surprisingly for a side who have scored 53 League goals this season, there was little by way of a clinical edge.
Chances were few as Everton's solid foundations stifled whatever it was their more illustrious counterparts could throw at them. Ludlow had a speculative effort saved and substitute Gemma Davidson forced a corner with a surging burst forward.
As they pressed further and further up the field, holes inevitably appeared in Arsenal's defence. However the Toffees were content to sit on what they had. It was a ploy that had worked from the seventh minute and it saw them through to the final whistle.
Rachel Yankey holds off Dowie
Julie Fleeting battles with Westwood
Kelly Smith gets close attention
Smith takes on Kanu
Jayne Ludlow gives her all
Karen Carney keeps battling
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- White 86
- Scott Yellow Card
- Grant 64
- Davison 86