Manchester City won the FA Women’s Continental League Cup for a third time after a penalty shoot-out that saw Janine Beckie score the decisive spot-kick.
Misses from Arsenal’s Leah Williamson and Danielle van de Donk, as City goalie Karen Bardsley came up trumps from 12 yards, helped seal the victory after a tense 0-0 across 120 minutes.
The first half was one of few chances, with both sides looking nervous but it the holders who appeared to settle the quicker in the opening stages.
It was only half-chances that either could rely on, with the Gunners’ Beth Mead heading wide at one end, City relying on shots from range at the other.
The biggest chance came right at the end of the half when Steph Houghton’s header from a corner was saved and defensive partner Gemma Bonner couldn’t divert the ball in from close range.
Nick Cushing’s side, though, took the initiative in the second half but couldn’t find the net despite several good chances.
Nikita Parris went closest when she flicked Caroline Weir’s free kick onto the bar before Weir herself was denied by an excellent save by Sari van Veenendaal in the last 10 minutes.
Vivianne Miedema, who was only fit enough to start from the bench, volleyed wide in added time while Beckie went even closer, smashing the crossbar with the final effort of normal time.
Cushing’s side continued to have the better of the game as Arsenal tired and Parris had a big chance to break the deadlock when she burst past Lucy Quinn but van Veenendaal denied her.
As the game progressed to penalties, it was Bardsley who was the hero, saving two penalties and allowing Beckie to step up and score the winner.
Beckie said: “I knew I wanted to take a penalty, I’m a pretty consistent penalty taker and we’ve got a few who are very confident so it made Nick’s decision a bit easier.
“We had a really good performance. It was a confident performance and when you’ve done that for 120 minutes, it’s a bit easier to go into penalties feeling like that.
“We felt like we had it. There was no way we couldn’t win it because we played so well. We should have put some chances away but we won it and we’re happy.
“We have 25 girls training very hard, so we know we have a squad who can win trophies and every player was used during this run.”
Cushing added: “It will galvanise us. It will give us confidence and give players who haven’t won trophies here to see what we’re about.
“We lost this last year and it went down pretty quickly because we didn’t have the mentality in the big games.
“All we’re going to do is concentrate on us, keep winning football games, and keep putting the pressure on.”
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Sari van Veenendaal, Janni Arnth, Leah Williamson, Louise Quinn, Katrine Veje, Dominique Bloodworth, Kim Little, Lisa Evans, Danielle van de Donk, Katie McCabe; Beth Mead.
Substitutes: Vivianne Miedema for Arnth 69, Amelia Hazard for Veje 71.
Substitutes not used: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Ava Kuyken, Ana Albuquerque.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Karen Bardsley, Gemma Bonner, Steph Houghton, Jen Beattie, Demi Stokes; Tessa Wullaert, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris.
Substitutes: Janine Beckie for Wullaert 65, Lauren Hemp for Parris 105, Claire Emslie for Weir 119.
Substitutes not used: Ellie Roebuck, Pauline Bremer, Megan Campbell, Abbie McManus.
Bookings: Stanway, Parris
Referee: Lucy Oliver