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Arsenal Ladies Win Continental Cup In Another Boost For Women's Football (PICTURES)

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Arsenal Ladies claimed another victory at the Continental Cup final on Wednesday, as player of the match Kim Little scored the only goal of the game with just seven minutes remaining.

A crowd of 2,535 turned out at Barnet's Underhill Stadium to watch the tense final, with the high-pitched chanting an indicator of the young following. The lack of swearing and the family atmosphere made for a sweeter environment as groups of school children seemed to make up the majority of the crowd - a rarity at men's matches.

kim little
Player of the match Kim Little of Arsenal

Arsenal promised that their most expensive ticket this season will be £126, but fans who watch the Ladies' team are still getting a better deal with their £5 stub for the final. They probably got a better view too - they just had to be open to a different gender playing on the pitch.

There was noticeably a distinct lack of egos amongst the players, too, as one man in the Director's Lounge noted "it's almost proper football".

"The biggest challenge of my career has been people recognising me as a footballer and not just a girl that plays football," said Stephanie Houghton, Arsenal Ladies player and goal scorer for Team GB women's team at the London Olympics.

Arsenal Ladies have won more titles than any other British Premier League team and sealed the Women's Super League title again in September - the 11th time they've been crowned champions of England in 12 years.

stephanie houghtonStephanie Houghton

That sort of success could go to any team's head, but the women on the pitch were still very much focused on the game and looked just as jubilant as if they'd won their first title. They sprayed champagne over one another, hugged and danced to the pop music blaring out of the stadium's speakers once the final whistle blew.

Broadcaster ESPN, who have been covering women's games for two seasons now, were at the North London ground to beam the game out live. Their spokesperson told me they bring just the same set-up for a women's final as they do for many of their other games.

Their live coverage on Wednesday attracted an average match audience of 25,000 viewers and reached (was watched at least once by) 145,571 people.
 
Viewing of their Women's Super League TV coverage has risen by 12 percent since last year and while 70 percent of their WSL audience is male, their female audience has also grown by 16 percent.

"I think because there is so much money involved with the men's game we're never going to be up there with them," said Houghton. The 24-year-old's career began "playing in the yard with her dad and friends" and moved on to playing in school on the boy's team, before she was scouted on a holiday football course.

However, she notes there has been an improvement. "It's nice to see the progression over the past couple of years and the launch of the semi-professional league.

"It getting televised means it's obviously going in the right direction and we've just go to keep pushing that as players… fingers crossed that it's always going to be positive feedback that we get in the media."

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