By Chris Harris
Arsenal Ladies are a step closer to their first UEFA Women's Cup Final after brushing aside Breidablik 9-1 on aggregate.
It would have taken a shock of seismic proportions to deny Vic Akers' side a place in the last four after last week's 5-0 win in Iceland. It never materialised. Instead goals from Julie Fleeting, Kelly Smith, Karen Carney and Rachel Yankey underlined Arsenal's superiority.
Fleeting banished any notion of an upset with a smart turn and finish after seven minutes and Smith lit up the tie with a superb solo effort after 24 minutes. Carney added a third six minutes from time with a low shot from a narrow angle and Yankey completed the scoring with an identical strike just before the final whistle.
Breidablik refused to buckle and, despite being second best for most of the night, they grabbed the consolation goal their raucous, flag-waving supporters craved. Emma Byrne fumbled a free kick 22 minutes from time and Laufey Bjornsdottir pounced.
The margin of victory should perhaps have been even more emphatic, but you couldn't accuse Arsenal of complacency. They were professional from the first minute to the last.
Tougher tasks lie ahead, but not too tough. Brondby lie in wait in the Semi Finals, a team Arsenal beat in last month's group stage. With both German sides out - including favourites Frankfurt - the draw has opened up nicely. There is a growing sense that this could be Arsenal's year.
Before kick off, Akers opted to start with the same side which lined up in Iceland. That meant Carney, back after a stomach bug, had to settle for a place on the bench.
Yankey was first to go close. A corner was laid back to the England winger after five minutes and, with very little backlift, she sent a rasping shot towards goal. Pora Helgadottir stretched to tip the ball over.
The Breidablik keeper had little time for a breather. Another corner caused confusion in the visitors' defence and, when the ball fell to Fleeting, she span sharply before rifling a shot low into the net.
Set pieces were clearly a problem for Breidablik. From the next corner Lianne Sanderson's flick was heading goalwards before a desperate clearance off the line. Fleeting latched onto the rebound but Helgadottir showed fine reflexes to deny her.
Yankey slammed a left-foot shot inches wide shortly afterwards but the siege eventually ended and the visitors gained a foothold in the match without ever troubling Byrne in the Arsenal goal.
The chances dried up for Arsenal too but, after a lull, Smith produced the moment of the match. Collecting the ball 40 yards out, the England star accelerated away from one challenge and muscled past another before belting a shot into the top corner.
Helgadottir had no chance with that one but she did brilliantly to deny Yankey 11 minutes before the break. The Icelandic keeper was at full strength to tip the winger's fierce shot to one side.
Yankey turned provider six minutes after the restart with a low cross to Smith. The England star's first-time shot whistled just wide. Then Fleeting broke clear on the left but her cutback was carved over the bar by Jayne Ludlow.
The captain went closer with her next effort just after the hour mark. Yankey bewildered her marker for the umpteenth time on the left flank and her cross was hooked inches off target by Ludlow.
With a seven-goal aggregate lead and a sixth game in 18 days scheduled for Sunday, Akers took the opportunity to rest some key players. With 25 minutes left he replaced Smith and Katie Chapman with Carney and Sian Larkin.
Then Breidablik scored. The goal came out of the blue and it was a moment to forget for Byrne, who spilled a simple catch after an aimless free kick. For the away fans though, it was a moment to savour.
At the other end Carney met Yankey's low cross perfectly but her first-time shot was superbly tipped over by the impressive Helgadottir.
Carney had the last laugh, beating the offside trap to shoot low into the bottom corner before Yankey grabbed a carbon-copy goal in the final minute. It was no more than Arsenal deserved. Brondby beware.
Julie Fleeting holds off Steinarsdottir
Our Scotish forward in action
Julie shows her close control
Yankey keeps her eye on the ball
- To buy official Arsenal pictures visit www.ArsenalPics.com.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.