Monday 27 February 2017

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 All Stars

Kelly Smith brought down the curtain on her 21-year career by stepping off the bench to score a penalty in her celebration game at Meadow Park.

The current Arsenal Ladies squad took on the Kelly Smith All-Stars, a collection of former team-mates and colleagues from throughout her career.

Pedro Martinez Losa’s side won 4-2 thanks to goals from Kim Little, Danielle Carter, Jordan Nobbs and Rianna Dean. Steph Houghton and Smith provided the All-Stars’ strikes.

On the final whistle both sides and their coaching teams took to the field to congratulate Kelly before embarking on a lap of honour in front of a crowd of 2,351.

The news of Smith’s retirement sparked a roll call of famous names from the world of women’s football ready to take part in this special one-off fixture.

England captain Houghton started, as did former Gunners such as Casey Stoney, Faye White and Marieanne Spacey.

Ex-England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis donned the gloves once more, with ex-Lionesses manager Hope Powell also starting for the All-Stars.

Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott also started, as did former Gunner Ellen White - among a host of well-known names.

The game was greeted by late sunshine as the game kicked off in good spirits, with the crowd in celebratory mood and with the Arsenal squad donning Smith face masks.

Arsenal were laying siege to the All-Stars goal early doors, but Smith’s side held firm, with a headed clearance from referee Howard Webb helping to alleviate the pressure.

The impressive Brown-Finnis rolled back the years with a string of saves to keep the scores level inside the opening half an hour.

The deadlock was eventually broken by Little’s strike in the 35th minute, prompting the Arsenal side to head to Smith to celebrate with their former team-mate.

Carter added a second before the interval when she tapped home from close range, before playing homage to Smith by taking off her boot, holding it aloft and pointing in the direction of the technical area.

Tracy Koch, who played alongside Smith at Wembley Ladies in the 1990s came on for the second period, which started in strong fashion for the All-Stars.

Houghton buried a strike in the 49th minute, with the All-Stars mimicking their opposition by heading over to Smith for a group celebration.

The All-Stars were forced to call upon young talent from the club’s development squad as the game drew towards its finale, with fan-favourite Spacey withdrawing after an impressive 68 minutes.

With 10 minutes remaining a penalty was awarded by referee Webb, prompting the All-Stars to turn to the dugout and gesture for Smith.

She promptly revealed her trademark number 10 shirt and made her way to the pitch, greeted by a guard of honour formed by both teams. She duly dispatched her spot-kick, prompting mass celebrations.

Late strikes from Nobbs and Dean claimed the victory for the class of 2017, but there were no doubts about who the real star of the show was.

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