Continental Tyres Cup final: Arsenal 0 Manchester City 0 (2-4 pens)
PUBLISHED: 16:32 23 February 2019
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Arsenal Women suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak against Manchester City as they lost their grip on the WSL Continental Tyres Cup silverware.
A repeat of last season’s final – which Arsenal won 1-0 at Wycombe for their fifth title – failed to provide a goal during two hours of play at Bramall Lane but City kept their nerve from the spot to win the competition for a third time.
Karen Bardsley saved Danielle van de Donk’s penalty before successful efforts from City captain Steph Houghton and substitute Janine Beckie as Nick Cushing’s side gained revenge for their loss at Adams Park.
City – currently two points clear of second-placed Arsenal in the Women’s Super League, having played two games more – had hit the crossbar twice before the match went into extra-time, through Nikita Parris and Beckie.
Joe Montemurro’s injury-hit Arsenal had only five players on the bench for the contest and most notable among them was top-scorer Vivianne Miedema, dropping out of the starting line-up as a precaution due to fatigue.
Katie McCabe came into the team for Miedema, and she produced the first attempt on goal in the ninth minute, skewing over from a good position.
As Arsenal continued to apply pressure, Beth Mead sent a shot into the stand and Houghton diverted the ball just wide of her own goal when intercepting a Van de Donk delivery.
Janni Arnth headed over from the resulting corner, before Parris struck an ambitious effort off-target at the other end.
City almost broke the deadlock in first-half stoppage time as Houghton’s header was parried by Sari van Veenendaal and Gemma Bonner failed to turn in the rebound.
And they went even closer in the 59th minute when Parris flicked a header against the bar.
Having barely threatened since the break, Arsenal then passed up a great opportunity as Arnth hit a shot wide from close range.
She was promptly substituted for Miedema, before City went back on the attack, with Parris firing just over.
Both sides might have won it as the 90 minutes neared a conclusion, with Van Veenendaal making good stops to deny Caroline Weir and Jill Scott, either side of Mead having a shot saved by Bardsley.
Miedema struck just wide in stoppage time and Beckie then drove a fierce effort against the bar, moments before the whistle confirmed the need for extra time.
Van Veenendaal did well once again in the first half of the additional period as she blocked a Parris shot. Parris was then taken off for Lauren Hemp, who flashed a header wide and miscued another chance, with Van Veenendaal grabbing the ball, shortly after half time in extra time.
Beckie sending a dipping effort over was the only other attempt of note before penalties ensued and City were left celebrating.
Things did not look good for Cushing’s team when Van Veenendaal saved Hemp’s penalty, but Bardsley saved the next spot-kick, from Leah Williamson, to keep the score at 1-1, then kept out Van de Donk’s effort, and Houghton and Beckie subsequently made no mistake.