Arsenal come back to earn draw in Wolfsburg

Jonas Eidevall’s side travelled to the Volkswagen Arena on Sunday, as the Gunners looked to pick up a good result in the first leg of their UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinal. Having eliminated Bayern Munich in the last round, Arsenal would face yet another German team in the form of VfL Wolfsburg.

WOB: Frohms; Rauch, Janssen, Hendrich, Wilms; Roord, Oberdorf; Jónsdóttir, Brand, Huth; Pajor

ARS: Zinsberger; Rafaelle, Beattie, Wubben-Moy; Catley, Wälti, Maanum, Maritz; McCabe, Blackstenius, Pelova

Wolfsburg looked threatening from the start, as Jónsdóttir broke into the box in the opening five minutes, forcing Manuela Zinsberger into action early on. That was soon followed by another scare for Arsenal – as Lia Wälti needed treatment after looking to sustain a knee injury. The midfielder was fine to continue, though her knee was thoroughly strapped by the medical team.

Steph Catley had chance to create a promising attack for Arsenal after being played in by Rafaelle, but her cross was sent wayward and never really threatened the Wolfsburg defence. As the German side ventured forwards, Jónsdóttir also wasted an opportunity to cross – as her effort had far too much on it, sailing across the box before being hoofed clear by Arsenal.

It was Wolfsburg that opened the scoring though through Ewa Pajor in the 19th minute – netting her eighth UWCL goal this season. Jónsdóttir was the creator, finding her Polish teammate with a beautiful diagonal ball that was then fired low past the Arsenal ‘keeper.

Jónsdóttir bagged a goal of her own five minutes later, capitalising on an Arsenal error. The Gunners looked to play out from the back following a goal kick, but Rafaelle’s pass to Beattie was poor and the Icelandic midfielder did well to intercept, tapping it home to double Wolfsburg’s advantage.

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Jonas Eidevall’s side just seemed to be picking the wrong option every single time, and that had cost them dearly. There was chance for redemption just before the break though, as Maritz did well to keep the ball in play on the right flank before playing in Frida Maanum. Her shot from a tight angle was sent behind for a goal-kick by Merle Frohms.

That resulting goal-kick was swung in towards the far post by Steph Catley – and Rafaelle delivered a powerful header into the back of the net to atone for her earlier error. Just minutes before half-time, the Gunners had halved the deficit and that would certainly influence Jonas Eidevall’s half-time team talk.

The opening twenty minutes or so of the second half was fairly uneventful, with an injury to Manuela Zinsberger the first real moment that warranted attention. The ‘keeper was fine to continue after receiving medical treatment, which allowed Eidevall to deliver some much-needed tactical updates to his team.

Just minutes after replacing Brand, Tabea Waßmuth fired a volley over the crossbar. Jónsdóttir’s delivery was excellent, and that’ll feel like a huge missed opportunity to restore their two-goal lead. It came back to bite them just a minute later, as Stina Blackstenius fired Arsenal level with potentially the easiest goal she’ll ever score. Pelova was sent through on goal with a beautiful pass, and her low cross was played right into the feet of Blackstenius who made no mistake from a yard or two out!

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Katie McCabe was the next Arsenal player to require medical attention, after a ball was pelted into her face with quite some power. Resilient as ever, the captain was okay to continue.

However, Wolfsburg’s increased pressure was palpable as Tommy Stroot’s side looked desperate to restore their lead ahead of their trip to the Emirates – though Roord’s low strike from inside the area was sent a few inches wide of the post. Waßmuth came close to putting the German side ahead once more, but the ball bounced away from her as she stepped up to strike.

There was still time for late drama though, as Lena Oberdorf received a yellow for a dodgy challenge on Lia Wälti. Katie McCabe was lucky to avoid a red for violent conduct however, as the Arsenal skipper barged Oberdorf to the ground following that challenge. She escaped with a yellow.

Ultimately, Arsenal showed fight to earn a draw after finding themselves trailing early on. They’ll feel as if they can get a result at the Emirates on the May 1st, where more than 40,000 fans are expected to be in attendance.

Attendance: 22,617