With one round still remaining in the second ever season of the FA Women’s Soccer League, the competition saw Arsenal Ladies crowned as champions on Sunday for the second time. And with a game in the league still to go against now second-placed Birmingham Ladies next weekend, only pride (and the possibility of an unbeaten season) remain to play for as the North London side sewed up the title in comfortable fashion.
Laura Harvey’s team kicked off their Sunday match against the Doncaster Belles knowing they were already champions after Birmingham Ladies could only manage a 2-2 draw against Bristol Academy Women in the day’s earlier kick off. Despite this the girls didn’t take it easy and the Belles certainly didn’t take it easy on them.
With a crucial tie coming up against Barcelona midweek, Arsenal were afforded the luxury of resting Steph Houghton and Rachel Yankey and allowing some of their younger players some match time. Although the match begun with both sides struggling to find fluency until the latter stages Arsenal ultimately came through as 3-2 victors, beneficiaries of a brace of own goals from Lyndsey Cunningham and Tanya Oxtoby and a second half strike from Kelly Smith. However the goal of the game (and perhaps the season) came from Aine O’Gorman’s 35 yard lob over the head of Keeper Emma Byrne.
With comfortably the strongest attack, yielding 38 goals in 13 matches, and points dropped in only 3 draws over the season, Arsenal Ladies champions’ status is clearly well earned. Whether they can repeat the feat for a third season may depend largely on the ability of other teams in the league to make the necessary step up in competitiveness. With a stronger infrastructure than previously evidenced in elite level women’s football in the UK, this is far less implausible than may once have been the case. For now though, Arsenal can focus on European and cup challenges to come safe in the knowledge that they lead the way in domestic competition by some distance.
CS and FQ
Images from ME! (yes, sports photographer I am definitely not) and http://www.sportsister.com