WSL Cup semi-final - Manchester City 1-0 Arsenal: Citizens reach final in tight contest

A solitary strike from Jennifer Beattie gave Manchester City a late semi-final win over Arsenal.

It is the Gunners' first ever exit before the final of the WSL Cup since it began, though City are one step closer to a possible double and meet Birmingham in the final.

Slow starts

It was a sluggish beginning to proceedings in Manchester, both teams keen to attack but neither hitting the heights of their abilities, City coming closest early on, making sure the visiting defence were switched on at a succession of corners. A weak back-pass from Demi Stokes fell into Asisat Oshoala’s path but the striker’s first touch was just too heavy and Marie Hourihan gladly dropped on the ball before Oshoala to touch in around her.

From one end to the other the ball bounced back and forward, possession turned off as attack became counter attack.

With the hosts looking a little laboured in attack, Arsenal looked to be the team to take the lead, Dan Carter, Danielle van de Donk and Oshoala a persistent threat. Cushioned in behind Steph Houghton, van de Donk brought the aerial ball down well before skewing her shot well over the top of the bar, City countering once more.

After van de Donk hobbled off after an innocuous fall the Dutch international, came off the worst after she challenged Jennifer Beattie late in the box. The wily attacker having to be withdrawn right on the breath of half-time. Another WSL game, another spot of controversy as Houghton looked to have taken Oshoala’s leg from under her as both crashed to the ground, with no whistle blown, the Gunner was first to her feet to bring get to the ball. One-on-one with, Oshoala could only sweep the ball well wide.

Though lively throughout Dan Carter squandered a number of chances during the game (credit: Clint Hughes/Getty)
Though lively throughout Dan Carter squandered a number of chances during the game (credit: Clint Hughes/Getty)

More of the same

After the restart it was much the same, Arsenal looking the more dangerous with their targeted attacks, City just flocking forward.

The first real chance falling to the visitors, Dominique Janssen’s perfectly weighted cross to find Dan Carter in the box wasted as the attacker volleyed clear over. From one over-hit volley to another as Houghton volleyed high and wide after City had done well to keep a corner alive.

Both goalkeepers had been earning their pay but neither had any big saves to make, both teams falling down with their finishing, Hourihan and Emma Byrne quick off of their lines but never under big pressure.

The best chance of the game falling to Carter, with Oshoala firing up the burners to beat Lucy Bronze, the ball flashed across as Hourihan failed to clear. With Carter making the run, the ball dropped straight into her path, with the goal gaping the attacker could only fire well over the bar. In an attempt to atone for the error, Carter let fly from outside the box, her snapshot beating the keeper but slamming against the bar.

The game suddenly sparking into life as Nikita Parris raced away, Casey Stoney forced to concede a free kick just outside the box. With the hosts temporarily down to ten as Parris hobbled off, Toni Duggan swept her free kick into the box, the ball angling towards the red shirts at the back post. The Gunners unable to clear as Beattie reacted first to knock the ball in from close-range.

With Natalia and Marta Corredera brought on to strengthen the attack, Kelly Smith looked to have restored parity when she fired the ball between Hourihan’s legs from two yards out but Houghton cleared off the line. All hands to the pumps as City cleared the second ball with red shirts flooding their box.

With a long six minutes of stoppage time to see out, the Gunners were franticly trying to find parity. Vicky Losada’s deep free kick and Oshoala’s whisker of a touch shaving the outside of the post from point-blank range. The former Liverpool striker involved again as she latched onto Smith’s lay-off, her shot blasted against the side-netting. Minutes ticking down to seconds as the home defence was tested over and over, the visitors desperate for a goal but the hosts held out to knock Arsenal out of the competition.