As swansongs go it was sweet indeed for the departing Arsenal manager Shelley Kerr, who a week after giving notice of her resignation with her team at the foot of the Women’s Super League saw her last game in charge marked by a fine performance that brought the Gunners the FA Women’s Cup for the 13th time.
Everton remain the only team to have beaten Arsenal in an FA Cup final, which they did four years ago, but with Arsenal captain Kelly Smith in commanding form there was never any real doubt about the Cup’s 2014 destination from the moment she fired her side in front from a free-kick in the 15th minute.
Smith then set up the Japanese midfielder Yukari Kinga to score the second goal 16 minutes into the second half. At 35 the England star was the oldest player on the pitch, but without question she was also the most influential.
“Kelly’s just incredible,” said the former Scotland captain Kerr. “I don’t think you guys in England will ever see another player like her, she’s fantastic. There were other brilliant individual performances but it was also a great team performance. We thoroughly deserved the win.”
Everton manager Andy Spence was fulsome in his praise of Arsenal’s performance. “The credit has to go to Arsenal,” he said. “They showed their experience from the point Kelly scored a fantastic free-kick. It’s important we learn from this so next time we get to a final we’ll be in a better position to deal with the occasion.”
Arsenal took control after Everton had almost scored through striker Nikita Parris’ angled drive. Kerr’s side were unlucky not to take the lead in the 10th minute, when winger Rachel Yankey’s 25-yard shot bounced off the post.
Arsenal had to wait only five minutes more for the opening goal, however, Smith beautifully arcing her free-kick into the corner of the net.
Everton captain Michelle Hinnigan fired in a long-range effort but goalkeeper Emma Byrne made the save. It was Byrne’s opposite number Rachel Brown-Finnis, however, who was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.
Brown-Finnis made a good save on the goal-line from the striker Danielle Carter a minute before half-time, but she was well beaten soon after the interval. Fortunately for the Everton keeper, Smith’s curling 15-yard shot bounced back off the far post and away from danger.
There was no way back for Everton when Smith’s pass set up Kinga to slide the ball home from 12 yards. Arsenal almost got a third goal in stoppage time when Emma Mitchell struck the bar. Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Byrne; A Scott, Stoney, Fahey, Mitchell; Bailey (Williamson, 75), Kinga; Carter, Smith, Yankey; Ohno. Substitutes not used: Chamberlain, Murray, Weir, Ayisi.
Everton (4-1-4-1): Brown-Finnis; V Jones (Murphy, 62), Johnson, George, Greenwood; Hinnigan; K Jones, M Turner (Whipp, 71), Chaplen, D Turner (Whelan, 82); Parris. Substitutes not used: Walsh, Magill.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).