By Isaac Moore at Stadiummk
Arsenal Ladies have won the FA Women's Cup for the 13th time after a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory against Everton on Sunday.
A magnificent free-kick from Kelly Smith sent the Gunners ahead before Yukari Kinga slid home a second just after the hour mark to ensure Shelley Kerr ended her reign with her third major trophy.
The win also means the club has completed an FA Cup double for the second time in its history, following the men's win over Hull City at Wembley.
SETTING THE SCENE
Vice-captain Alex Scott was the only survivor from the side that started the 2013 final against Bristol Academy but, with the likes of Smith, Emma Byrne, Rachel Yankey and Casey Stoney all in the starting line-up, Arsenal were fancied to retain their trophy against a young Everton team.
Kerr made one change from the league defeat to Bristol a week ago - Jade Bailey was preferred to Christie Murray at the heart of the Gunners' midfield. The only minor surprise was that Byrne was picked ahead of Siobhan Chamberlain, who had played the three ties en route to the final.
A crowd in excess of 15,000 was in attendance at Stadiummk with the majority sporting red-and-white shirts on a warm afternoon.
Before the game, Kerr talked about the importance of an early goal but it was the Toffees who came closest to making an early breakthrough. Kelly Jones's defence-splitting pass found top scorer Nikita Parris, who fired over from a tight angle.
Arsenal responded well and twice went close in the space of a minute. First Yankey saw a fierce drive cannon off the inside of the post and away to safety. Seconds later, Shinobu Ohno picked out Smith inside the box but the captain dragged a first-time effort wide.
They didn't have to wait much longer to take the lead. In the 15th minute, Carter was fouled 20 yards from goal and Smith curled home an exquisite free-kick into the top corner. It was her sixth goal in FA Cup finals.
Everton were almost back on terms six minutes later when Millie Turner got in front of her marker to head over from close range.
However, it was Arsenal who were making most of the running and, in Danielle Carter and Yankey, the Gunners had the pace and trickery to cause Everton all sorts of danger.
In the 34th minute, Carter drove at the Blues' back line and shot narrowly wide of the near post. Then her glancing header from Scott's cross was smothered on the line by Rachel Brown-Finnis.
Arsenal merited their half-time lead. But it remained a slender one.
The Gunners continued to dominate after the restart. In the 51st minute Smith swivelled and bent an effort towards the far corner but the post came to Everton's rescue again.
Ten minutes later, Arsenal's crucial second goal arrived. Smith latched onto a long ball and was held up by Gabby George. But the veteran showed impressive strength to hold the ball before teeing up Kinga to tuck a low shot into the corner and become the first overseas player to score in an FA Women's Cup final.
Brown-Finnis denied Arsenal a third with an athletic save from Ohno's drive after the Japanese forward combined with Carter.
The young forward's blistering pace made a difference all afternoon and in the 66th minute she raced to the byline again before cutting back for Scott, who drilled a shot straight at Brown-Finnis.
Parris nodded inches wide from Alex Greenwood's free-kick in Everton's best effort of the second half.
To their credit, Everton didn't stop pushing for a way back into the game but Arsenal were always in control and came close to adding a third when Emma Mitchell's shot came off the crossbar in stoppage time.
The Gunners will now turn their attention to improving their league form when the WSL season resumes at the end of June. But for now, they can celebrate yet another major trophy.
- Kinga Goal!
- Bailey 76
- Smith Goal!
- Williamson 76
- Jones 62
- Turner 70
- Whelan 82
- Magill 70
- Murphy 62