Victory but not delight for Fulham boss...
Football Editor Tony Leighton puts a Fulham perspective on the Nationwide Women's Community Shield at Leyton Orient, where the FA Cup winners beat League champions Arsenal on penalties.
A penalty shoot-out victory earned Fulham the Nationwide Women's Community Shield, but the Cottagers were pushed all the way by arch-rivals Arsenal in a hard-fought 2-2 draw - and manager Gaute Haugenes has warned his team to expect more of the same from all of their National Division opponents in the forthcoming campaign.
After two seasons of monotonously huge victories en route to the Nationwide Women's Premier League top flight, the FA Cup and Premier League Cup winners are expected to rob the Gunners of their League crown this season. But at Brisbane Road in front of a Shield attendance of 1,189, Arsenal showed they were not going to give up that crown without a fight.
They twice hit back after going behind, Sanchia Duncan and captain Katie Chapman having scored the Fulham goals, and only a fine save by goalkeeper Astrid Johannessen prevented Ellen Maggs completing an Arsenal hat trick with what would have been the winning goal two minutes into stoppage time.
Johannessen then made a crucial save from Faye White in the penalty shoot-out, which Fulham won 3-1 with Katrine Pedersen, Rachel McArthur and Mary Phillip all on target from the spot.
So the Cottagers won the first trophy of the new campaign, but their display did not convince manager Haugenes. "I was pleased with the result but not the performance," he said, "especially in the second half when our passing was poor.
"It's always nice to win a game and pick up a trophy, and I'm proud of my record of never having lost a match since I became Fulham manager.
"But every time we play this season it's going to be a Cup final for our opponents, we have to get used to that - and it's important that we overcome it."
Haugenes' team looked set to overcome the Gunners with some ease in the early stages. They took the lead after just 44 seconds, Duncan sweeping in a Rachel Unitt low cross, and though Maggs headed an eighth minute equaliser it was soon 2-1 as Chapman drove home a 20 yard shot after 11 minutes.
A high scoring contest looked in prospect, but the first half went flat after the early goal burst as both sides struggled to find their rhythm.
Fulham might have taken the game by the scruff of the neck if McArthur's 20 yard drive had hit the net instead of flying over the bar three minutes after the interval.
But instead it was Arsenal who edged the second half and might well have won the game. Clare Wheatley and substitute Julie Fletcher both missed fine chances which sandwiched another good McArthur effort, a 20 yard lob saved under the bar by Emma Byrne.
Player of the match Maggs equalised for the second time in the 74th minute, curling an excellent left footed shot beyond the reach of Johannessen. And few in the crowd, Fulham fans apart, would have begrudged her a hat trick had Johannessen not brilliantly saved her 15 yard drive in stoppage time.
The Cottagers' spot-kick expertise then won the day but Haugenes, ever the realist, said: "It was a tough game, as I knew it would be - games against Arsenal will always be like this because both teams are desperate to win and Arsenal are one of the best teams in Europe.
"It was important that we played a game like this ahead of our first League match, at Doncaster Belles next week, and the more games we play in the National Division the better side we will become - hopefully good enough to win the League title.
Arsenal (3-5-2); Byrne; White, Williams, Champ; Pealling, Ludlow, McDonald, Grant, Wheatley; Maggs, Martyn, (Fletcher 61).
Subs: Price, Reacy, Pond, Ta.
Fulham (4-3-3); Johannessen; Jerray-Silver (Moore 61), Pedersen, Phillip, Unitt (Rahman 78); McArthur, Chapman, Haugenes; Duncan, Nwajei, Yankey.
Subs: Gibbons, Smith, Spacey
Ref; Mr. P. Armstrong (Berkshire)