Having lost key players to injury during their UEFA Women’s Champions League in midweek, Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal welcomed Manchester City to Meadow Park. Kim Little and Katie McCabe both picked up injuries in that game at the Emirates – and while McCabe was deemed fit enough to start, club captain Kim Little’s recovery is expected to take a little longer. Lotte Wubben-Moy came in as her replacement, with Leah Williamson taking the armband and moving into central midfield as she had done in that quarterfinal. Eidevall also dropped Manuela Zinsberger, opting to go with Sabrina D’Angelo between the sticks.
Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City side was unchanged from their 2-0 win over Chelsea last time out, with a win against Arsenal crucial – three points would bring them level with local rivals Manchester United at the top of the Women’s Super League table.
ARS: D’Angelo; Maritz, Wubben-Moy, Souza, McCabe; Walti, Williamson; Pelova, Maanum, Foord; Blackstenius
MCI: Roebuck; Morgan, Houghton, Greenwood, Aleixandri; Hasegawa, Angeldahl; Coombs, Kelly, Hemp; Shaw
Filippa Angeldahl played the ball out wide to Chloe Kelly on the right flank early on, and the England superstar delivered a pinpoint cross into the centre of the box – which was nodded home with power and precision by Khadija Shaw. The Jamaican striker left Sabrina D’Angelo with no chance of making the save, and the visitors were ahead within five minutes!
Leah Williamson was put under pressure by Khadija Shaw a few minutes later, and the England captain’s clearance was intercepted by the goalscorer who surged towards goal – forcing a fine save from D’Angelo at the near post.
Arsenal’s first real opportunity to probe upfield came after Victoria Pelova surged down the right wing, eventually releasing the ball to play in Caitlin Foord but the Australian was offside. Soon after, Leah Williamson’s challenge on Yui Hasegawa gave the Gunners another opportunity to break forwards on the counterattack, with Caitlin Foord running the ball down the left flank – but she was forced behind by Esme Morgan.
With patient build-up play not seeming to be getting them anywhere, Leah Williamson launched a thunderous strike from distance that met the head of Alex Greenwood – the City defender was fine to continue though, despite crashing to the ground from the hefty impact.
Arsenal appeared to finally be getting stuck into the game, and looked to have a great chance as Caitlin Foord found Stina Blackstenius with a cheeky ball over the top, though a rushing Ellie Roebuck did well to come out and make a vital save. The Gunners had another opportunity to level the game a few minutes later as Katie McCabe found Frida Maanum with a cross that sailed over a hectic penalty area, but the Norwegian couldn’t find the back of the net and her effort was sent well over the crossbar.
Arsenal’s injury concerns grew worse in the 35th minute, as Caitlin Foord picked up what looked to be a muscle injury – Laura Wienroither came on to replace her, but that’s far from ideal for Jonas Eidevall.
City should have doubled their lead before the break though, as Chloe Kelly’s cross into the box found Lauren Hemp at the far post. She struck it first time, but her effort was sent over the bar. Hemp really should have scored that! She was given another opportunity a few moments later as Khadija Shaw laid the ball off to her, but her second strike was saved well by Sabrina D’Angelo.
Despite a late chance for Chloe Kelly that was denied by D’Angelo, City took just a one-goal lead into the break. Gareth Taylor’s side had lacked a clinical finishing touch, and while Khadija Shaw had done well to put them ahead, they should have scored two or three. Arsenal had shown their quality at times throughout the first half, and the City boss would be hoping his side could put the game to bed quickly.
The second half started as a much more even affair, until Frida Maanum found the back of the net in the 62nd minute to bring the Gunners level. Noelle Maritz broke free on the left and played in Stina Blackstenius, but her ball into the centre of the box took a deflection off Steph Houghton. It was almost like pinball in the penalty area, but after a few deflections, the ball fell to Frida Maanum who fired home to level the game.
Katie McCabe attempted to tee up Maanum for her second goal ten minutes later, and the Norwegian managed to get a shot off – but Ellie Roebuck did well to produce a fantastic fingertip save to deny Arsenal the lead. Roebuck couldn’t do all too much about McCabe’s effort a minute later though, as the Arsenal star received the ball from a short corner and powered an absolute rocket of a strike into the back netting, sailing past the City ‘keeper. Not bad at all for someone who left the Emirates Stadium on crutches on Wednesday night! Advantage Arsenal – who’d have seen that coming at half-time?
City looked well and truly depleted after Arsenal’s second goal, and Khadija Shaw failed to get a shot on target after Hayley Raso’s delivery into the box – instead firing well over the horizontal. Six minutes of injury time were played after a head injury to Frida Maanum, and while the goalscorer was fine to continue, City’s afternoon was worsened further by the loss of Khadija Shaw.
A win for Arsenal sees them leapfrog Manchester City, claiming second place in the Women’s Super League table for the time being. They sit level on points with Gareth Taylor’s side, but their superior goal difference puts them above the Manchester outfit. The Gunners have a game in hand over table-topping Manchester United though, and should they win that, they’ll go level on points with the Red Devils! The four-way title fight is really heating up, with Chelsea also involved. They’re fourth at the moment, but a trip to Aston Villa later today could see them claim second – and they’d still have a game in hand over United. What a season this is shaping up to be!