Arsenal Ladies boss signs off with win over Everton to complete FA Cup double
- Credit: EMPICS Sport
Shelley Kerr brought the curtain down on her 16-month reign as head coach by guiding the Gunners to FA Women’s Cup glory at Stadium MK.
Goals from inspirational captain Kelly Smith and Yukari Kinga enabled the holders to record their 13th success in the competition – an ideal response after suffering three straight home defeats in the league.
The margin of victory may have been greater were it not for the heroics of Toffees’ stopper Rachel Brown-Finnis – but Kerr, who guided Arsenal to FA Continental Cup glory and now two FA Women’s Cups, was full of praise for the players she is now leaving behind.
“I thought the girls were fantastic. It was nothing new to me – they’ve trained liked that every day I’ve worked with them,” said Kerr, who announced her resignation last week.
“In most of the games this season, we’ve seen evidence of what we’re capable of producing. Unfortunately so far, up until now, we hadn’t been consistent over 90 minutes.
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“We dominated with a fantastic team performance. It was a thoroughly deserved win and I’m really proud of them.”
It was Smith, England’s all-time record goalscorer, who set the Gunners on their way to a men’s and women’s FA Cup double for the first time since 1998.
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And Kerr, who succeeded Laura Harvey as head coach in February 2013, was lost for superlatives to describe the ability of a player who now has four FA Cup winners’ medals with Arsenal.
“She’s just incredible,” added the outgoing coach. “She’ll hate me for saying this, but she’s 35 years old! You will never see a player like her in England again, she is so talented.
“Every time she takes a free-kick, I’m almost writing on my note pad ‘it’s a goal’. That’s the quality she has – she is a fantastic leader. Kelly is not the most vocal person, but she leads by example on and off the pitch.”
Arsenal were the better side throughout, and had already seen Rachel Yankey’s 25-yard shot hit a post before Smith struck the opener just shy of the quarter-hour mark.
Danielle Carter, a constant threat down the right, was upended on the edge of the box, allowing Smith to curl the ball left-footed beyond the outstretched Brown-Finnis for her sixth goal in this year’s competition.
Carter was denied a goal of her own making when her left-foot shot grazed the post, while Shinobu Ohno also came close to doubling Arsenal’s lead before the interval.
But there was little that could be done to prevent the craftsmanship involved when the Gunners’ second goal arrived on the hour-mark.
Determined to avenge their 3-2 defeat to the Toffees in the 2010 final, Smith hurdled a couple of desperate challenges before finding the onrushing Kinga, who placed her right-foot shot low inside the right-hand post.
Arsenal are not in action again until later this month, but Kerr is in no doubt that whoever replaces her at the helm will be joining a side moving in the right direction.
She added: “Arsenal are a fantastic club and they gave me an opportunity to work with a fantastic group of players, and I had an opportunity to work with some of the most talented youngsters in the country.
“There is no doubt in my mind they will go on to be successful. Half our team are 21 and under, which is brilliant.
“The future is definitely bright, that’s for sure.”