With the final kick of the game, Kim Little sent her spot kick into the top right corner. As Arsenal’s players celebrated in a huddle on the penalty spot, the referee blew for full time, meaning Arsenal have all but clinched Champions League football for next season.
Arsenal didn’t exactly make it easy for themselves. Playing a third game in a week, Arsenal were comfortable in possession, but lacked a little bit of sharpness to get around Everton’s defence. Everton, playing 5 at the back, sat off to begin with, daring Arsenal to break them down. Jordan Nobbs nearly did, after hold-up play from Caitlin Foord, but Sandy MacIver punched over Nobbs’ shot.
Two years ago, it was Katie McCabe who sealed Champions League qualification for Arsenal, with a goal against Birmingham City, and it was McCabe who put Arsenal 1-0 up. A lofted ball made it’s way through to McCabe, and from a tight angle she lobbed MacIver to put Arsenal 1-0 up.
Everton had a team huddle as Arsenal celebrated the goal, and looked to play slightly higher up the pitch—yet the Gunners were largely untroubled. That continued into the second half, as Everton kept the Gunners at bay, but couldn’t create much for themselves. Noëlle Maritz had a chance after a neat one two from Foord, and Beth Mead crossed when she could’ve shot, but these were half-chances at best.
That Arsenal couldn’t add to their lead meant a side with Everton’s quality could always hit back, and they did so on seventy-four minutes: from the right hand side, Izzy Christiansen’s cross was powered home by Megan Finnigan to level the scores, and end Arsenal’s run of clean sheets.
Arsenal immediately upped the pressure, and there were two chances to win it in added time. First, McCabe, who was deadset on pulling Arsenal home, cleverly played in Little from a set piece, but Little’s shot was tame and straight at MacIver. With time running out, it was again McCabe who gave Arsenal a chance to win, as she was brought down in the penalty box by Finnigan. Little stepped up, and scored.
Officially, Arsenal have not yet qualified for the Champions League. But with only one game to go, Arsenal are three points ahead of Manchester United, with a goal difference that is better by twenty-six, meaning that Arsenal are essentially in next season’s Champions League.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Wälti, McCabe; Little, Van de Donk; Mead (Catley 81’), Miedema, Nobbs (Roord 81’); Foord
Substitutes not used: Williams, Wubben-Moy, Patten, Maier, Gut, Goldie
Goals: McCabe 22’, Little (p) 90+3’