Thursday 18 August 2011
Arsenal Ladies oust title rivals Everton to go top of table with one game to go.
By Oliver Yew at Meadow Park
Arsenal Ladies climbed to the top of the FA Women's Super League after Kim Little's second-half goal sealed a hard-fought 1-0 win over rivals Everton.
The Scotland international struck nine minutes after the break to leave Laura Harvey's side within touching distance of the title. A win at Liverpool in their final WSL fixture will secure the trophy.
On a wet night at Meadow Park Arsenal were in need of a win to keep their title quest on track but it was the visitors who started the better of the two sides.
And it was the Toffees who nearly took the lead through a Fara Williams thunderbolt but a full-stretch Emma Byrne made an excellent save low down to her right.
As the half wore on Arsenal started to build momentum and Little played Danielle Carter through on goal but Everton keeper Rachel Brown rushed off her line and made a crucial interception.
Minutes later Carter went close again as she danced past Rachel Unitt and cut inside before firing a left-footed shot inches past the post.
The Gunners were in the ascendancy now and Rachel Yankey was next to work Brown with a fierce cross and a stinging drive from the edge of the box, which the goalkeeper did well to deal with in the wet conditions.
Despite Harvey's side's dominance it was Everton who had the last chance before the interval as Unitt ghosted in unmarked at the far post to meet Williams' free-kick, but the defender's shot drifted inches past the post.
After the break Arsenal came out with renewed urgency which nearly paid instant rewards but Katie Chapman headed Yankey's free-kick over the bar.
But the Gunners were not disappointed for long as Little made the decisive breakthrough. In the 54th minute Ciara Grant's long ball upfield fell to Little who fired a a 20-yard shot past the despairing dive of Brown for her fifth goal in four games.
It was no more than the Gunners deserved but minutes later the home side had keeper Byrne to thank for staying on level terms as she made a spectacular save from point-blank range to deny Natasha Dowie.
With only a one-goal advantage the home crowd sensed the game was far from over and when Little found space in the Everton box 10 minutes from time she had a golden opportunity to ease the nerves but the midfielder fired over the bar.
Everton continued to press for the equaliser but it never materialised as Arsenal defended as if their lives depended on it in the dying stages to move top of the table.
It means the equation for Harvey's side is simple - three points against Liverpool and they will be crowned champions.