Defender Gilly Flaherty thinks Arsenal LFC are "yet to reach our potential" after a 5-1 defeat of Rayo Vallecano de Madrid put them in the last eight and left boss Laura Harvey delighted.
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Arsenal LFC became the first team to get to ten UEFA women's club quarter-finals on Wednesday with a comfortable 5-1 defeat of Rayo Vallecano de Madrid – capping a hugely successful year, according to manager Laura Harvey.
Having been held 1-1 in Spain last week, Arsenal ended up making more convincing progress past Rayo than in the equivalent UEFA Women's Champions League round of 16 tie a year ago. Jayne Ludlow and Kim Little struck before the break and Rachel Yankey and Jordan Nobbs added further goals. Natalia, who like Little also scored in the first leg, pulled one back in fine style but substitute Danielle Carter's solo effort confirmed the victory.
Harvey, whose side have, in 2011, reached last season's European semi-finals and completed the English treble, told UEFA.com: "We proved again that we can create chances and score goals and that's what you've got to do at this level. We haven't got one out-and-out goalscorer, we've got players who can put the ball in the back of the net all across the pitch, and we showed that today."
Twelve months ago, Arsenal needed a last-gasp goal to knock out Vallecano, having lost defender Gilly Flaherty to a red card. That meant a suspension in the quarter-finals for the 20-year-old – at Arsenal since she was 12 – but she had a happier day this time around after a fine campaign, with a tour of Japan to come later this month.
"It's been a great year and we've said throughout that we felt we hadn't been playing that well," Flaherty stated. "When you look back at it, to get to the quarter-finals again and win the treble with us still thinking we are yet to reach our potential is quite frightening. But this season is done now, we're going to go and enjoy Japan and whoever we get in the draw we'll be ready to face."
Whereas Arsenal's starting lineup had only one change compared with the 2010/11 second leg, Vallecano had seven alterations after a financially difficult year. "We don't have the same money but we have the heart," coach José Ramón Hernández said. "I'm proud of my team; we fought until the end. In the first half we didn't play as well as we could, and when they scored the match changed. In the second half we tried to control the game until the second goal, then they got the third so fast there was nothing we could do."
For Harvey, though, stability has been the key. "That was the plan 18 months ago when we got this squad together, that this was a squad for the future," she said. "We wanted to try and keep the older ones going as long as we possibly can, and blend the young ones in so that, when needed, they could come in and perform. We've got players who are under the age of 22 who have won a treble, got to the semi-finals of the Champions League, [and this season] got to the quarter-finals of the Champions League – at such a young age that's such a massive achievement."