Manchester City brought to an end Arsenal’s total dominance of the Continental Cup thanks to a towering 73rd-minute header from Isobel Christiansen.
Arsenal looked a solid bet to make it a fourth Cup title in as many seasons, such was their dominance at Adams Park, but City stunned the holders with a goal on the break, and then played out the remainder of the match with great composure.
Arsenal 0-1 Man City
FAWSL Continental Cup Final
Adams Park, Wycombe
Thursday 16 October 2014
And while Christiansen deserves huge credit for providing a scrappy match’s first real moment of quality, her captain at City, Steph Houghton continued her love affair with the Continental Cup.
For the England skipper, who joined City from Arsenal at the start of the season, it was the fourth consecutive year she has lifted the Cup.
Houghton was also voted player of the match, after a display of tough tackling and even fiercer free-kicks that stung the hands of Arsenal keeper Emma Byrne.
The north London club’s history for hoovering up honours, plus Manchester City’s resources and four-strong England contingent gave this match a real allure.
Watch highlights from Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City: Highl
But the football on show was more befitting two teams who finished the FA WSL1 season in mid-table, and scoring opportunities were few and far between.
At least a knowledgeable 3,697-strong crowd were treated to an intriguing battle between two England team-mates, Manchester City’s Jill Scott and Jordan Nobbs of Arsenal.
Scott played further forward of the two, roving behind Toni Duggan, although her meaty tackling made her anything but a typical No10.
Nobbs, meanwhile, showed real industry in the middle of the park, at the heart of everything good about Arsenal, while showing strength and power that belied her slight frame.
For all that, the first chance took 38 minutes to arrive, when Arsenal striker Danielle Carter pressed the City defence and found herself through on goal on the left corner of the six-yard box.
Carter tried to prod into the far corner of the net but Karen Bardsley showed impressive reflexes to palm to safety.
On the stroke of half-time Shinobu Ohno made progress down the right flank and cut back a ball for Rachel Yankey, lurking on the left-hand side of the box. The former England winger controlled the pass when she might have hit it first time and Bardsley was quick to smother the ball.
The introduction of Kelly Smith on 63 minutes added urgency to Arsenal, although Manchester City also sensed an upping of the ante, and soon forced the first save of the night from Byrne.
Niamh Fahey had been booked for a heavy challenge on Scott, and from the resulting free-kick, Houghton’s 30-yard free-kick forced a sprawling save from Byrne.
But Arsenal were stunned when a short spell of dominance was punctured by a rapid counter-attack.
Krystle Johnston burst clear on the right and surged into the Arsenal half, before delivering a cross which hanged beyond Byrne’s reach.
Arsenal’s backtracking defence were struggling and Christiansen beat team-mate Toni Duggan to the ball, heading home with power.
Duggan then spurned a chance to make it 2-0, and Houghton showed her potency with a dead-ball, thumping a free-kick from the side of the 18-yard box through the wall.
Byrne made a meal of the save, deflecting on to the crossbar, but Arsenal were able to clear to safety.
And yet the expected onslaught from Arsenal’s experienced side never came, leaving City to play out a quiet final 10 minutes and win their first major trophy.
Arsenal (4-3-3): 1 Emma Byrne; 2 Alex Scott, 19 Niamh Fahey, 5 Casey Stoney, 3 Emma Mitchell; 4 Yukari Kinga, 14 Leah Williamson, 8 Jordan Nobbs; 7 Shinobu Ohno, 9 Danielle Carter, 11 Rachel Yankey.
Substitutes: 10 Kelly Smith for Kinga 62, 24 Freda Ayisi for Ohno 79.
Substitutes not used: 15 Siobhan Chamberlain (GK), 16 Christie Murray, 29 Caroline Weir, 25 Jade Bailey, 26 Vyan Simpson.
Manager: Pedro Martinez Losa
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): 1 Karen Bardsley; 14 Nicola Harding, 6 Steph Houghton (captain), 16 Emma Lipman, 20 Georgia Brougham; 7 Krystle Johnston, 20 Georgia Broughton, 24 Keira Walsh, 11 Isobel Christiansen, 19 Natasha Flint; 8 Jill Scott; 9 Toni Duggan.
Substitutes: 33 Paula Radtke for Lipman 62.
Substitutes not used: 13 Alex Brooks (GK), 15 Chelsea Nightingale, 12 Betsy Hassett, 22 Emma Kete, 18 Danielle Young.
Goal: Christiansen 73.
Manager: Nick Cushing.
Referee: Nigel Lugg (Surrey FA).
Assistant referees: Stephen Bates (Hertfordshire FA) and Alexander Hardman (Gloucestershire FA).
Fourth official: Tim Donnelly (Bedfordshire FA).