With all of the UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarterfinals being played at main stadiums, Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal travelled to Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena last week – though they fell to a narrow defeat. Lea Schüller bagged the only goal in that game, heading home from Maximiliane Rall’s sublime cross to give the German side – coached by Alexander Straus – a slender advantage ahead of their trip to the Emirates Stadium this evening.
Victoria Pelova was introduced to Jonas Eidevall’s starting lineup at Laura Wienroither’s expense – with Katie McCabe dropping into the back four. Alexander Straus also made one change, with Franziska Kept replacing Sydney Lohmann in the starting eleven.
ARS: Zinsberger; McCabe, Rafaelle, Williamson, Maritz; Wälti, Little; Foord, Pelova, Maanum; Blackstenius
BAY: Grohs; Hansen, Kumagai, Viggósdóttir, Rall; Stanway, Zadrazil; Bühl, Magull, Kett; Schüller
Arsenal were unlucky not to find an opener within the opening five minutes as Frida Maanum surged up the pitch, playing it out to the left flank – but the resulting shot was blocked. The Gunners broke forward again through Noelle Maritz, who did well to outmuscle Klara Bühl on the right wing – though that chance didn’t come to much either.
Arsenal felt they should have been awarded a free-kick as Kim Little was hauled down by a late sliding challenge from Sarah Zadrazil, as the Arsenal captain was played through on goal. The visitors had made a few rash challenges in the opening minutes, but this one forced Little off after just ten minutes – with Lotte Wubben-Moy taking her place, and Leah Williamson taking the captain’s armband on her birthday.
Twenty minutes in, the Gunners took the lead in sensational style, as Frida Maanum fired a thunderous strike into the top-left corner, after Arsenal capitalised on a misplaced Bayern pass. It felt like it had been coming, with plenty of stray passes from the Bayern midfield intercepted by Jonas Eidevall’s side – but they’d finally made it count!
They almost found a second soon after, as Bayern took too long to play the ball out from the back and Victoria Pelova was sent through on goal – but Maria-Luisa Grohls managed to beat the forward to the ball and deny Arsenal a crucial second goal.
The Gunners didn’t have to wait long though, as Stina Blackstenius rose highest inside the area to divert Katie McCabe’s cross into the back of the net. With 26 minutes played at the Emirates, Arsenal were in total control. Five minutes later, Leah Williamson came close to bagging a goal on her birthday, but she placed her header just over the crossbar after connecting with Caitlin Foord’s cross from the left flank.
Franziska Kett came close for Bayern soon after that though, picking the ball up from Klara Bühl inside the area before blazing a shot over the crossbar. Desperate for her second goal of the evening, Stina Blackstenius attempted to run the length of the pitch herself, though she was beaten to the ball by Grohls. Blackstenius could have bagged her second a minute later though, intercepting a pass intended for Sarah Zadrazil before placing a shot wide of the near post.
The Gunners could have made it 3-0 before the break, with a free-kick coming close to finding the back of the net before Lotte Wubben-Moy sent a curling ball into the area that struck the inside of the far post before bouncing back into the box! It seemed almost as if the Arsenal defender was paying tribute to her teammate Beth Mead, currently sidelined through injury, who has scored a fair few goals from chances like that!
Alexander Straus’ side failed to register a shot on target in the first half, and his side needed a goal if they were to stand any chance of progression. One goal wouldn’t be enough either – as UEFA have scrapped the away goals rule, Bayern would need two goals to win, or one to progress to extra time and penalties.
Klara Bühl cut inside as the hour mark approached and attempted to curl a shot towards the far post, but the German was denied by the leg of Lotte Wubben-Moy, which sent the ball out for a Bayern corner. Lina Magull nodded it back across the face of goal, and it appeared to strike the arm of Rafaelle Souza – but the Spanish referee felt there was nothing in it and allowed play to continue.
Caitlin Foord should have put the game to bed in the 72nd minute, as Frida Maanum found the Australian on the left of the box with a cheeky backheeled pass, but the winger’s strike was sent over the bar – she won’t be able to forget that soon enough!
Noelle Maritz received a yellow card for a challenge on Jovanna Damnjanovic as the game entered the final ten minutes, and the Bayern striker’s reaction didn’t help to de-escalate the situation, as she responded by shoving Maritz to the ground in rugby-esque fashion. She also received a yellow card.
Caitlin Foord attempted a rather speculative shot from well outside the area – though it was caught with ease by Maria-Luisa Grohls, who initiated a Bayern counterattack. Manuela Zinsberger did well to hoof it back upfield though, clearing the danger for the Gunners who were keen to avoid an extra thirty minutes of added time.
Katie McCabe was forced off through injury as the game headed into the dying minutes, with seven minutes of injury time to be played as Arsenal desperately tried to preserve their lead over Bayern. Maria-Luisa Grohls came forward for every set piece, in the feint hopes that she could replicate Alisson’s sensational goal against Aston Villa to win her side the game. Alas, it was too little, too late for Alexander Straus’ side – who couldn’t rescue anything from the game and crash out of the UWCL at the quarterfinal stage.
Arsenal will now face either Wolfsburg or Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinals, which will take place towards the end of April. Wolfsburg won the first leg against their French opponents 1-0, and they are at home for the second leg on Thursday – so they’ll be confident that they can progress. This is the first time that Arsenal have made it to the semi-finals in a decade – could they go all the way?