Arsenal Ladies secured the Continental Cup for a third straight year with a deserved 2-0 victory over Lincoln on Friday night.
The Gunners dominated the game from start to finish but were frustrated for long periods. However two late goals from Ellen White and Kim Little gave them the win their performance fully merited.
Despite losing out on the WSL title, the Gunners have still captured two trophies this campaign and will now approach their upcoming Champions League game against Kairat confident of adding a third.
Shelley Kerr made three changes to the team that beat Everton on Sunday. Danielle Carter returned up front in place of Gemma Davison, Gilly Flaherty came in for Yvonne Tracy at centre-back and Caroline Weir made way for Emma Mitchell. Lincoln made just the one change from their win over Chelsea with Aileen Whelan replaced Lara Fay.
Rick Passmoor’s team held Arsenal to two draws in the WSL this season, but Kerr’s side were not to be denied on this occasion. Defender Flaherty talked before the game about working on their movement off the ball and more importantly, their finishing in front of goal.
In the third minute Carter picked up the ball on the edge of the area and unleashed a low drive that forced Karen Bardsley to palm wide.
It was an ominous start from the holders and they went close again in the ninth minute, Yankey clipped in a cross towards White but her diving header whistled just over Bardsley’s goal
White had another effort from distance in the 18th minute but the England goalkeeper was again equal to it, smothering the ball low down.
But as the half wore on Lincoln started to become more comfortable without making any in-roads into Arsenal’s third and the game started to have a similar feel as the goalless draw at Meadow Park in early September.
Aileen Whelan had Lincoln’s only effort in the first half in the 42nd minute with a swerving strike that whistled just wide. Then, seconds later Arsenal failed to clear their lines and the ball eventually fell to Bonnie Horword whose shot deflected just past the far post with Emma Byrne stranded.
This kicked the Gunners back into life and they immediately piled players forward in search of an opener before the break. Little twisted and turned in the box before firing a shot that looked destined to hit the back of the net but Casey Stoney made a superb block to deny the Scot.
The second half began at a frantic pace. Jess Clake found space on the edge of the area but fired over.
In the 52nd minute Little picked the ball up in the left channel and drove past Amy Tuner before sliding in brilliant cross to the onrushing White, However the forward slipped at the vital moment and her shot was deflected wide.
Lincoln were hanging on by a thread as Arsenal piled on the pressure. White had a header cleared off the line before Yankey and Carter were both denied by last-ditch blocks.
Arsenal did have the ball in the net in the 65th minute but referee Lisa Rashid had already blown for a body check on Bardsley before White volley wide a minute later.
Kerr’s team kept on pushing forward in search of a winner, and with just under 15 minutes to play, they finally made the breakthrough. Little found herself in a pocket of space and slid a delightful through ball towards White who rifled a shot into the corner giving Bardsley no chance.
The cup was sealed 10 minutes later through a moment of magic from Little. The Scot picked the ball up 25 yards out, beat three defenders before firing a superb striker into the corner. It was no less than Arsenal deserved.
Lincoln threw players forward in the remaining minutes but Arsenal’s defence stood tall and to keep yet another clean sheet.
And the final whistle was greeted with relief as well as elation from Kerr’s team. Arsenal Ladies have added another piece of silverware to their glowing trophy cabinet.
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