Stina Blackstenius scored the winner in extra time as Arsenal edged Manchester City 1-0 to reach the Continental League Cup final.
Blackstenius pounced on fellow substitute Lina Hurtig’s 93rd-minute cross to decide the semi-final with a deflected finish and move his side one game away from their first trophy since winning the 2018 Women’s Super League -19.
In a tense and absorbing competition between two in-form WSL sides, City’s lack of incisiveness proved costly as their 16-game unbeaten streak came to an end with their first loss since September.
Record-breaking five-time winners Arsenal now face a final against either West Ham United or Chelsea, who play their semi-final on Thursday.
The centerpiece will take place on March 5 at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park.
Arsenal triumph in a tactical showdown
The Manchester City players had expressed their excitement at facing third-placed Gunners twice this week after leveling the points with them last weekend.
In a game that had been anticipated as a telling re-run of a potentially crucial WSL game, it was no surprise to see a close tactical showdown play out between a City side unbeaten for so long and a reliable and reliable Arsenal defense. well-drilled arriving on a run of three successive clean sheets in all competitions.
Chloe Kelly’s uncompromising back and forth with Katie McCabe was among the entertaining one-on-one fights, while Lauren Hemp bristled with creative intent in her attempts to supply WSL top scorer Bunny Shaw.
Arsenal had fewer attempts but better chances in a game dependent on quick transitions, pouncing on loose passes to close in on Laura Wienroither, who was thwarted by City keeper Sandy MacIver early on, and Caitlin Foord, who came close to connecting decisively with an inviting Kim Little cross.
Head coach Jonas Eidevall’s introductions of Steph Catley, Hurtig and Blackstenius early in the second half felt like a statement of intent and left City at a loss for ideas.
Substitute Hurtig made an immediate impact in a quick exchange of chances, hitting the crossbar with a close-range finish when it looked easier to score.
The Gunners could have scored twice in the dying moments of regulation time, with Blackstenius seeing his shot on the turn thwarted by an exceptional reflex save from MacIver and Hurtig eyeing a header past a post.
MacIver nearly ruined her impressive display when City substitute Ellie Roebuck overturned an innocuous cross, only for captain Alex Greenwood to stop Blackstenius chaotically capitalizing.
Filippa Angeldahl’s fierce drive after City fell behind then drew a crucial save from Arsenal keeper Sabrina D’Angelo, who was on high alert behind a strong defensive block as the Eidevall players ended the victory.
These teams have just over 48 hours before meeting at City’s Academy Stadium on Saturday.
With both five points behind Chelsea – Arsenal down a game – the imperative to win should produce a more cavalier encounter than this suspenseful cup tie.