By Chris Harris
Kim Little ensured Arsenal's latest title party went with a swing by scoring twice as the newly-crowned champions beat Leeds Carnegie on Wednesday night.
Laura Harvey's team sewed up the Premier League trophy at the weekend with a satisfying win at old rivals Everton, but before they could parade their prize they had a chance to parade their talent in front of an expectant Emirates Stadium crowd.
The Ladies duly delivered. Professional to the end, they grabbed the lead in the 11th minute with Kim Little's 45th goal of an incredible season. And they never let go.
Little added a second from the spot after substitute Danielle Carter was tripped and Gemma Davison scored a late third. At the other end, goalkeeper Emma Byrne was barely tested.
The margin of victory could have been greater but the result simply underlined what we already knew: in the English game, no team can match Arsenal Ladies for class and consistency. Once again they are worthy champions.
When this fixture was scheduled it screamed 'title clincher' but the Ladies' fine form put paid to that. If anything, this game carried more significance for the visitors. Leeds needed to better Everton's final result of the season to book their place in the Women's Champions League.
But Arsenal, no doubt buoyed by their impressive surroundings, clearly intended to put on a show.
A scrappy opening gave way to an opening goal in the 11th minute. Davison surged into the box on the right, got to the byline and cut the ball back for Little. She eats that sort of chance for breakfast and duly tucked it away from six yards.
Rachel Yankey was next to go close. Fresh from receiving her Player of the Season award prior to kick off, the England international fired just wide from distance in the 24th minute. Just after the half-hour she curled a free-kick marginally wide too.
Leeds took some beating when these sides met earlier in the campaign - going down by the odd goal in the League and FA Cup - and they weren't without chances of their own. Ellen White headed the best of them a few yards wide just before the interval.
Just after it, Arsenal should have doubled their advantage. A quick-fire break saw Little send Yankey through on the left and, although her shot was true, Carly Telford parried and then smothered the rebound.
Little was the next to threaten. She stole possession off Sophie Bradley near the corner flag and made for goal before spearing a shot beyond the far post.
Ellen White's deflected shot and Katie Holtham's rising drive signalled a rare spell of Leeds pressure just after the hour mark but, generally, the Arsenal back four dealt stoutly with the best their opponents could muster.
And with 19 minutes left, Leeds' resistance was effectively ended. Seconds after replacing Julie Fleeting, substitute Carter was tripped in the box by Sophie Walton. Little stepped up to send Telford the wrong way and celebrate her 46th goal of the campaign.
Carter hit the bar with a deft flick moments later and Davison added some gloss with a low drive into the bottom corner three minutes from time. And that was pretty much that. The final whistle blew, the celebrations began, and as the sun sank behind the Emirates, Jayne Ludlow lifted the trophy she has lifted so many times before.
Astonishingly this was Arsenal's seventh title in succession and the ninth in 10 years. By the look on their faces, it still matters just as much.
- Ludlow (C)
- Yankey 90
- Fleeting 68
- Davison 90 Goal!
- Little Goal! Goal!
- Lander 90
- Bruton 90
- Carter 68
- Bradley (C)
- Thackrey 82
- Walton Yellow Card
- Holtham Yellow Card
- Clarke 55
- Moore 90
- Sutcliffe 55
- Bonner 90
- Daly 82