Kelly Smith stole the show as Arsenal won The FA Women’s Cup for the 13th time in manager Shelley Kerr’s last match in charge.
The Gunners captain, and player-coach, scored one and made the other as the north London club defeated Everton 2-0 in The Final at stadium:mk in Milton Keynes.
Smith opened the scoring on 15 minutes, curling a 20-yard free-kick beyond the desperate dive of Toffees goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis.
Arsenal 2-0 Everton
The FA Women's Cup
Sunday 1 June 2014
stadium:mk, MK Dons FC
And just minutes after she hit the woodwork, Smith set up Yukari Kinga to score her first Arsenal goal and ultimately settle The Final just after the hour mark.
Arsenal extended their record in this competition to 13 victories, to give Kerr a perfect send-off after the Scot announced last week that she was stepping down from the hotseat.
A large portion of the 15,000 fans in attendance at stadium:mk had already been warmed up by Liverpool defeating their Merseyside rivals in The FA Girls’ Youth Cup Final which took place earlier in the day.
And they were on the edge of their seats right from the off as Nikita Parris blazed over in the opening seconds of the main event.
This chance lit the fuse for a pulsating start to the game. Brown-Finnis had to leap at Danielle Carter’s feet to deny the Three Lions youngster a clean strike at goal when put through by Smith - who herself dragged an early shot wide when found by Shinobu Ohno.
The talismanic figure of Smith was already having a big impact on proceedings but she was almost usurped by Rachel Yankey’s 25-yard pile-driver which crashed back off Brown-Finnis’s right-hand upright.
Not to be outdone, though, England’s record goalscorer opened the scoring on the quarter-hour mark with a reminder of her unquestionable class.
Alex Greenwood brought down Carter just outside the Everton box and Smith stepped up to curl the subsequent free-kick into the corner of the net, giving the Toffees No1 no chance.
Andy Spence’s side tried to respond immediately, with Brooke Chaplen and Mille Turner heading off target from two corners in quick succession. And Chaplen also tried her luck from range but Emma Byrne, playing in her first Cup game of the season, got down well to save.
Carter then sent a low, left-foot shot just beyond Brown-Finnis’s near post to complete an almost breathless opening half an hour.
There were two more Arsenal chances before the interval with Chaplen heading Ohno’s in-swinging free-kick off the line before Brown-Finnis sprung to her right to gather Carter’s diving header.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Smith gave another example of the quality she can conjure with her left foot when she collected Alex Scott’s cut back, turned back onto her favourite peg and curled a sublime effort against the far post.
Inevitably, Smith had a hand in the Gunners’ second as she battled her way past Gabrielle George and laid the ball off for Japanese midfielder Kinga to sweep home from 12 yards and give Kerr’s charges a two-goal lead that was the minimum their dominance had warranted.
It might have been 3-0 soon after, only for Brown-Finnis to intervene when denying first Ohno and then Scott.
Everton failed to create too many clear openings before the final whistle but they did come close to halving the deficit when Parris headed Hinnigan’s free-kick just wide with 12 minutes left.
But the 2010 Cup winners could not find a way back into the contest and Arsenal were able to give Kerr the perfect goodbye.
1 Emma Byrne, 2 Alex Scott, 3 Emma Mitchell, 4 Yukari Kinga, 5 Casey Stoney, 7 Shinobu Ohno, 9 Danielle Carter, 10 Kelly Smith (C), 11 Rachel Yankey, 19 Niamh Fahey, 25 Jade Bailey
Substitutes: 14 Leah Williamson for Bailey (76)
Substitutes not used: 15 Siobhan Chamberlain, 16 Christie Murray, 20 Caroline Weir, 24 Freda Ayisi
Goals: Smith (15), Kinga (61)
1 Rachel Brown-Finnis, 2 Vicky Jones, 3 Alex Greenwood, 4 Brooke Chaplen, 6 Lindsay Johnson, 8 Michelle Hinnigan (C), 9 Nikita Parris, 11 Kelly Jones, 14 Danielle Turner, 23 Gabrielle George, 24 Millie Turner
Substitutes: 22 Billie Murphy for Vicky Jones (62), 10 Simone Magill for Millie Turner (71), 5 Fern Whelan for Danielle Turner (82)
Substitutes not used: 25 Megan Walsh, 19 Lucy Whipp
Referee: Martin Atkinson