Bristol City 1-2 Arsenal: Katie McCabe brace hands Arsenal key three points at Ashton Gate

Having fallen to a comprehensive defeat at Manchester City’s Joie Stadium last weekend, Lauren Smith’s Bristol City would face another tough challenge on Sunday evening. Arsenal would make the trip to Ashton Gate Stadium, seeking to build upon positive momentum from their stoppage time win against Aston Villa.

Notably, Jonas Eidevall recalled Vivianne Miedema to his matchday squad for the first time in ten months – with the Dutch international having recovered from an ACL injury sustained in December 2022. For Bristol City, Liv Clark would start between the posts, with Kaylan Marckese ineligible to play against her parent club and Fran Bentley sidelined through injury.

BCI: Clark; Powell, Layzell, Aspin, Napier; Morgan, Connolly, Rodgers; Furness; Jones, Thestrup

ARS: Zinsberger; Catley, Wubben-Moy, Codina, Maritz; Wälti, Little; Woord, Pelova, McCabe; Russo

Bristol City found themselves under pressure from the very start at Ashton Gate, forced to sit back and absorb the relentless Arsenal attack. On her Bristol City debut, Liv Clark was called upon to deny Caitlin Foord from a tight angle – with the Welsh goalkeeper producing a fine save to settle her nerves in the opening stages.

But with such a considerable gulf in class between the two teams, the Gunners were bound to take the lead before long. With Ella Powell having put the ball behind for a corner, Arsenal took advantage of their set-piece expertise, working the ball out to Katie McCabe on the edge of the box. Taking a touch to wiggle her way into a central position, the midfielder unleashed a stunning strike – leaving Clark stranded as she opened the scoring in emphatic fashion.

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The Gunners would be left to rue their squandered opportunities though when Rachel Furness equalised less than ten minutes later. McCabe had blown a chance to complete her brace before Foord forced another fine save from Clark – but with their first meaningful attack of the match, the Robins drew level as Furness connected beautifully with Jamie-Lee Napier’s cross to smash a header past Manuela Zinsberger.

Lauren Smith’s side were evidently growing in confidence, with Amalie Thestrup sent forwards to chase a long ball – though as she found herself through on goal, she became tangled with Lotte Wubben-Moy and Laia Codina, with Wubben-Moy working her way into the referee’s book for a foul on the forward.

But just ten minutes into the second half, Arsenal looked destined to take the lead as Victoria Pelova forced Clark to palm away her shot – albeit only into the path of the onrushing Russo. Clark was able to deny the ex-Manchester United star, before then denying Noelle Maritz and Foord with the help of Megan Connolly.

Yet the Welsh shotstopper was unable to help when McCabe netted her second goal of the evening, taking time inside the box before powering a volley past Clark to restore Arsenal’s advantage.

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Beth Mead was unlucky not to have added a third for the Gunners shortly after her introduction from the bench, as her headed effort flew inches wide of the post as she latched onto McCabe’s delivery into the box.

As the clock ticked into the nine minutes of stoppage time, McCabe would once again be played through on goal – but her cross from the byline sailed out uncontested.

Ashton Gate – or the away section at the very least – would soon erupt into a cauldron of noise, as Vivianne Miedema made her long-awaited return from an ACL injury. It’s a moment that has been ten months in the making, and looked to have a poetic ending as she sought to feed the ball forwards in search of Arsenal’s third, albeit to no avail.

A win at Ashton Gate grants Arsenal three vital points, and Jonas Eidevall will feel the weight of the world lift off his shoulders after the Gunners’ poor start to the campaign. For Bristol City, they remain rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Women’s Super League table – although there are signs of promise for Lauren Smith’s side.