(Lyon win 3-2 on aggregate)
By Matt Fortune
Arsenal's dream of retaining the Uefa Women's Cup ended at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais in horrendous conditions at Meadow Park.
Goals from Kelly Smith and Rachel Yankey were not enough as the French outfit secured a 3-2 win on the night and on aggregate. Katia, Camile Abily and Elodie Thomis were on target for the visitors.
This season was the French side's first foray into European competition since they reformed in 2004. They lack experience in the Uefa Cup but certainly do not lack quality. They showed that when dumping last season's semi-finalists Kolbotn IL out in the group stage and they showed it again tonight.
Manager Vic Akers named one change from the first leg as Julie Fleeting replaced Karen Carney. Bringing in a striker, who recently scored her 100th international goal, for a wide player was a clear sign of intent from the manager.
The rain started an hour prior to kick-off and did not relent. It certainly didn't favour either side. Both are known for their fast-paced and exciting use of the ball, but as the conditions continued to deteriorate so did the quality of the football.
In the early exchanges it was the home side that were able to eke out the best openings. Katie Chapman was ruled offside after she had stroked the ball home from inside the box, and Fleeting twice came within inches of connecting with crosses from Lianne Sanderson.
Unseperable for 90 minutes a week ago, it took just 16 minutes for the deadlock to be broken this time around. Brazilian Katia was found unmarked at the back post and crashed a header past the despairing Emma Byrne - the away goal was a double blow for the Ladies and left them needing to score twice. They would do just that by the 33rd minute.
Arsenal's response was tame to start with, but with the roar of the home fans behind them, the equaliser arrived within seven minutes. Smith, playing through the pain barrier according to the manager, raced onto an incisive pass from Fleeting before slotting home under the advancing goalkeeper.
The second came in spectacular fashion just after the half-hour. Yankey had originally failed to clear the near post with a corner, but when she was given another chance the England star curled the ball beautifully into the far corner. Advantage Arsenal, but it wasn't long before the tie would swing away from them again.
Abily jumped highest in the box, burying a Sonia Bompastor cross and handing the initiative back to Lyon. Bompastor, who Akers revealed could have joined Arsenal two years ago, was proving a menace down the left flank.
The tie was poised on a knife-edge and both teams looked nervous as the game restarted.
Fleeting had the first sniff of the second half but her shot went just wide. In truth it was the French side that looked most dangerous, especially from set-pieces.
However a second disallowed goal for Arsenal came from just that scenario. On the hour Jayne Ludlow poked a home from a crowded six-yard box only to be ruled offside.
The time ticked by and Arsenal's grip on the Uefa Cup was loosening. Ludlow was booked for a crunching tackle on 70 minutes as frustrations started to grow.
The runaway French league leaders continued to create the best of the chances and the hosts needed to call on some desperate defending to keep themselves in with a shout.
Their hopes were all but ended five minutes from time. A collection of loose passes in the midfield tipified the sloppiness of the second-half. Substitute Thomis was played through by a red shirt and despite the attentions of Anita Asante, she calmly nudged the ball underneath Byrne. Game over.
Faye White leads the team out
Jayne Ludlow challenges Simone
Lianne Sanderson outpaces Dusang
Cruz slides in on Kelly Smith
Sanderson scores our second goal
Sanderson celebrates her strike
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
- Chapman 76
- Ludlow Yellow Card
- Smith Yellow Card
- Felicienne Minnaar
- Carney 76