MATCH REPORT: CONTINENTAL CUP FINAL
Arsenal Ladies' Ellen White and Kim Little score late on to win the FA WSL Continental Cup Final
Ellen White failed to hide her elation after scoring Arsenal Ladies’ opening strike in their 2-0 Continental Cup final win against Lincoln Ladies at The Hive.
White’s 76th-minute strike punctured Lincoln’s resistance before Kim Little made sure of the win, which allowed the Gunners to retain the trophy, with a superb solo effort four minutes from time.
Continental Cup Final 2013 trophy
England forward White, along with several of her team-mates, had spurned a series of great chances to break the deadlock before her goal, and she hailed her side’s patience after the win.
She said: “It was elation when I scored! We made hard work of it at times – we had a lot of chances, they defended great. And we were very patient and really pleased to come out as a winners.
“I was thinking ‘please we don’t want this to go to extra-time’. I definitely missed a few, so I needed to keep my head in it. But I’m really pleased to have scored – it was a great ball from Kim – and then she got the second.”
Gunners boss Shelley Kerr had described Lincoln Ladies as Arsenal’s “bogey team” in the build-up to the fixture and Rick Passmoor’s side, who had thrice drawn with the Londoners earlier this season, looked on course to frustrate them for the fourth time in a row as the match reached its closing stages.
Pressing high up the field, the Gunners pegged Lincoln back in their own half for long stretches, with Danielle Carter testing Karen Bardsley early on with a low shot that was pushed wide for a corner.
Shortly afterwards White ran unchallenged toward the edge of the box, but Bardsley was equal to the Arsenal striker’s well-struck drive, while Jordan Nobbs failed to catch the England goalkeeper out with an ambitious cross-cum-shot from the right-hand touchline.
Lincoln grew in ambition and confidence as the half wore on, and began to exert some pressure of their own on the Arsenal backline.
Aileen Whelan’s 42nd-minute shot, which sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick, triggered a manic rush of chances which could have led to either side breaking the deadlock.
Following a series of weak attempted clearances in the Arsenal box, the ball landed at the feet of Bonnie Horwood. The Lincoln midfielder steered the ball toward goal and it took a nick off the flailing leg of Gilly Flaherty before landing narrowly wide of Emma Byrne’s left-hand post.
Soon after Steph Houghton was denied from point-blank range, while Remi Allen made a heroic double-block to thwart Carter from inside the six-yard box.
White should have scored after the restart after stretching to meet Little’s perfectly weighted centre, but she could only watch on as the ball drifted agonisingly wide of Bardsley’s far post.
Little was growing increasingly influential, but she failed to beat Bardsley following the end of a free-flowing move, while Rachel Yankey and Carter were both, amazingly, denied by a series of goal-line clearances in quick succession.
Arsenal finally put the ball in the back of the net in the 64th minute – but unfortunately for Kerr’s charges, it was ruled out for a foul on Bardsley.
But they didn’t have to wait too much longer to break the deadlock as White latched on to a superb pass from Little before rifling the ball beyond Bardsley.
Buoyed by their breakthrough, Arsenal continued to press forward and Little got the goal her performance deserved when she embarked on a mazy run through the heart of the Lincoln defence before planting the ball past Bardsley with aplomb.
He said: “We were spirited and we worked as a team. However, going forward we need to add value to the team if we actually want to compete at this level.
“We’re a credit to come this far in this competition, but Arsenal were the better team and they are used to playing on this stage. We had a few that looked a bit like rabbits in headlights.”
Arsenal (4-3-3): Byrne; Scott, Houghton, Flaherty, Mitchell; Nobbs, Little, Chapman; Yankey, Carter (Davison 81), White.
Subs not used: Rowlands, Tracy, Weir, Ayisi, Bailey, Humphrey.
Red cards: none.
Lincoln Ladies (4-5-1): Bardsley; Turner, Bradley, Stoney, Ma. Harris; Clarke, Allen, Horwood (Me. Harris 81), Walton, Sweetman-Kirk (Roberts 81); Whelan (Sargeant 58).
Subs not used: Draycott, Fay, Lee.
Bookings: Clarke 62.
Red cards: none.
Ref: L. Rashid