Manchester City, in their debut season of top-flight football, clinched the first major trophy in the women’s team’s 26-year history as Isobel Christiansen’s late winner gave them victory in the Continental Cup final in Wycombe.
Arsenal Ladies, with 41 league and cup titles in the last 21 years, were denied a fourth successive Continental Cup triumph by a City side whose entry into the top echelon of the Super League came courtesy of their financial muscle. Indeed, they were elevated at the expense of Doncaster Belles this year, without the need to earn promotion.
In these circumstances there has been ill-feeling towards City in the women’s game, but they have proved a worthy addition to the Super League.
After a slow start to the campaign they deservedly fought their way to this final and to a fifth-place finish in the league.
City have shown plenty of quality in big games over the last few months, never more so than on Sunday when their 2-1 league victory over champions-elect Chelsea prevented the Blues from taking the title as Liverpool claimed it for a second successive season.
But they started this cup final nervously and Arsenal had a couple of early chances.
Gunners midfielder Jordan Nobbs sent an 18-yard shot wide of the far post, however, and then left winger Rachel Yankey dragged a 15-yard effort past the near post following a succession of errors in the City defence.
City’s first goal attempt did not arrive until just after the half-hour, the midfielder Jill Scott snatching at a 12-yard shot that flew over the bar. Either side of that chance Arsenal continued to look the more fluent side and were denied a 35th-minute opening goal when the City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley saved a shot at point-blank range from the striker Danielle Carter.
In first-half stoppage time Bardsley again kept the scores level, this time saving at the feet of Yankey after a Shinobu Ohno cross left the winger free inside the six-yard box.
City improved after the interval but it was not until the 67th minute, when the City captain Steph Houghton forced Arsenal’s goalkeeper Emma Byrne into a flying save from a 30-yard free-kick, that the second half produced some real excitement. Six minutes later left winger Christiansen headed home a Krystle Johnston cross, and eight minutes from time the lead was almost doubled when a Houghton free-kick was turned on to the crossbar by Byrne.
A further goal was not needed though, and City lifted the trophy to give the head coach Nick Cushing a great start to his management career. He had never worked in the women’s game before this year.
Arsenal Byrne; A Scott, Mitchell, Kinga, Stoney, Ohno, Nobbs, Carter, Yankey, Williamson, Fahey. Substitutes not used Smith, Chamberlain, Murray, Weir, Ayisi, Bailey, Sampson.
Manchester City Bardsley; Harding, Houghton, Lipman, Brougham, Walsh, J Scott, Christiansen, Duggan, Johnston, Flint. Substitutes not used Brooks, Radtke, Nightingale, Hassett, Kete, Young.
Referee N Lugg (Surrey).Reuse content