By Adam Clark in Umea
Arsenal Ladies have every chance of becoming the first British club to lift the Uefa Women's Cup after a last-minute thunderbolt from Alex Scott gave them a precious away win in Umea.
Vic Akers' side were touted as underdogs going into the game but produced a dogged team display and earned the advantage they will take into next Sunday's second leg at Boreham Wood.
The hosts, two-times winners of the competition, posed a serious threat throughout but the Gunners looked to have frustrated them into a stalemate. That was until defender Scott let fly 35-yards from goal to record a vital away goal and a dramatic late victory.
Akers had striker Kelly Smith missing through suspension so top scorer Lianne Sanderson joined Julie Fleeting in attack. There was also a place on the bench for Club captain Faye White who has missed the entire season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
World Player of the Year Marta was often the main threat throughout and wasted no time in showing it. Just four minutes in she skipped down the right before whipping in a cross that Emma Byrne claimed confidently. As if taking it in turns to fire the warning shots Hanna Ljungberg then fired inches over Byrne's crossbar from the edge of the box.
The wind whipped through the Gammliavallen Stadium all afternoon and on 12 minutes it was so nearly Arsenal's undoing. Elaine's forward pass swirled into the path of Madeleine Edlund but again Byrne reacted quickly to snuff out the danger. The Arsenal keeper later made a superb stop to deny Edlund once more, turning away a low shot that looked destined for the bottom corner.
Arsenal had half chances too and you sensed a breakthrough wasn't beyond them. By example, Sanderson escaped her marker on 20 minutes only for her cross to elude Rachel Yankey by the narrowest of margins.
Six minutes later Marta showed her class once more. Cutting in from the left she eluded two challenges before rifling a low shot that brought another fine save from the impressive Byrne. The Irish No 1 was seemingly relishing the challenge of stifling Umea's prestigious striker.
Arsenal's resoluteness must have surprised the hosts and having not found the early breakthrough they began to pile more and more players forward as half-time approached. And although an Elaine free-kick went close Yankey also had an effort charged down by Anna Paulson.
On 42 minutes Akers' side showed why they believed they could take something from the game. Katie Chapman found Sanderson who in turn played in Yankey between two defenders. The Arsenal winger galloped forward before squaring for Karen Carney, a resourceful outlet throughout, but her measured shot skidded agonisingly wide. It had only taken three passes to get in behind and carve out a chance.
The second half started with a real flurry. Anita Asante had already cleared a dangerous cross from Maria Bergkvist when another from Edlund skimmed Ljungberg's forehead six-yards out. Sanderson then went close with a first-time effort before Byrne saved a piledriver from Lisa Dahlqvist.
Arsenal had a let off when Edlund headed over from six yards soon after while the unbeatable Byrne snatched the ball from the jinking feet of Ljungberg once more.
Chapman and Paulson then exchanged chances before Sanderson fired a free-kick over the bar. With less than a third of the game remaining the visitors looked more than capable of snatching an unlikely victory.
Arsenal finished the game strongly with Yankey causing endless trouble down the left wing. Carney had a double effort but the best chance fell to captain Jayne Ludlow. Unfortunately the angle worked against her and she could only find the side-netting.
And when Umea had broken away late on Asante simply ushered Marta away. It was typical of Arsenal's performance - unfazed and assured.
Then came the moment Arsenal had dreamt of since their Semi-Final win over Brondby in November. Scott was left in acres of space and fancied her chances. Her effort sailed on the wind and carried on sailing straight beyond keeper Carola Sjoberg's reach. Now to Boreham Wood in eight days time.
Sanderson holds off Elaine
Yankey skips down the wing
Fleeting clashes with Frisk
Philip clashes with Bachman
Elaine slides in on Fleeting
Scott lets fly in the last minute
Alex Scott sees her shot fly in
The ladies celebrate their late winner
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