By Chris Harris
If there was a moment when it seemed Arsenal Ladies would have to keep their title champagne on ice, it came 14 minutes from time on Thursday night.
Charlton, trailing 1-0, were awarded a penalty. Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne had been little more than a spectator until then, but she guessed right to parry Casey Stoney's spot kick and then smother the loose ball. Before long, a second goal and the final whistle confirmed Arsenal as champions, leaving Byrne to reflect on the mind games behind her decisive intervention.
"I wasn't nervous because I thought that if I saved it, it would be a bonus. Casey Stoney, who took it, used to play for us for years, so we know each other well because she used to practise penalties against me when I was in goal.
"I thought she was going to go to my right because that's where she used to go, but as she knows I know that I went the other way, it was a bit of reverse psychology really!
"I parried it and then for a couple of seconds I didn't know where the ball went because I knew I hadn't pushed it around the post. It was spinning in front of me and I just managed to grab it."
Byrne was called into action twice more in quick succession, saving from Amanda Barr and Donnique Sinclair-Chambers, but otherwise she was under-employed as Arsenal carved out the better chances. The Ireland international was not surprised.
"It is often that kind of game against Charlton," said Byrne. "It was the same at the League Cup Final, they only had two chances and they scored with both. I think we are getting used to them and the way they like to play.
"It's always a bit scrappy against them because there are a few nerves and we know each other so well, and it just depends on the day who plays the better football."
Byrne is growing rather accustomed to collecting silverware in an Arsenal shirt. This is her fifth title in six seasons with the Club, so is the buzz wearing off a little? Not a bit of it.
"Never," she insists. "This has been hard-earned, it's been a tough season. All the teams are getting better and we've not had one really easy game, even when we've scored a lot of goals it was often 0-0 at half time.
"It's not easy for us any more and we can't be slacking. That's why it still means so much to win the title."
And with that Byrne was off, no doubt to enjoy the champagne which, without her penalty save, might still be untouched.Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 14 Apr 2006