Without a head-to-head victory in the Barclays Women’s Super League, Leicester City manager Willie Kirk recalled Janice Cayman and Deanne Rose to his starting eleven, hoping that they could assist in ending the Foxes’ barren run against the Gunners.
In pursuit of a fifth consecutive victory across all competitions – after getting their 2023/24 FA Women’s League Cup group-stage campaign off to a winning start with a 3-1 win over Bristol City on Thursday – Arsenal began a second successive match without injured captain Kim Little and Lia Wälti.
LEI: Leitzig; Bott, Howard, Tierney, Nevin; Cayman, Thibaud, Rantala; Cain, Petermann, Rose
ARS: Zinsberger; McCabe, Ilestedt, Wubben-Moy, Catley; Pelova, Lacasse; Cooney-Cross, Maanum, Foord; Russo
In the wake of respective 4-0 and 5-0 victories on their last resounding two visits to the King Power Stadium, Arsenal unsurprisingly began assertively in pursuit of the game’s opening goal as Alessia Russo and then Lotte Wubben-Moy forced Leicester number one, Janina Leitzig, into two sublime saves within the eight minutes of the contest. Frustratingly for the yet so far wily Foxes, they could not offer any meaningful response to the Gunners’ opening attacking gambit.
However, heavily against the run of play in the first-half play in and around the final third, Leicester left Arsenal shellshocked in the space of a stunning two-minute spell in front of goal. Sam Tierney began the show for the majority in attendance at the King Power Stadium in the 36th minute by authoritatively rising above Wubben-Moy at the back post to head home Lena Petermann’s header back into the midst of the danger zone.Embed from Getty Images
Janice Cayman would then justify her recall to the hosts’ starting line-up by doubling the Foxes’ advantage less than 120 seconds later, with a clinical sliding finish via Hannah Cain’s pinpoint delivery into the centre of the penalty area.
Determined to right their first-half wrongs, Arsenal showcased a post-Halloween-esque scare of their own almost immediately from the restart. Canadian forward Cloé Lacasse began the comeback in the 49th minute with a confident one-on-one winning battle against Leitzig after Courtney Nevin had made a mess of Caitlin Foord’s dazzling defence-splitting pass.
England’s Russo would then get the Gunners back on level terms by expertly timing her run against the offside trap before calmly dispatching captain Katie McCabe’s pitch-perfect pass beyond Leitzig into the corner of the net.Embed from Getty Images
Already seemingly speechless at the scenes unfolding before their eyes, Arsenal struck again in similarly devastating style six minutes later. Russo this time turned provider, which allowed Foord to get her name on the scoresheet, subsequently delivering the calculating blow to Willie Kirk’s half-time team-talk by exquisitely lofting the ball over the head of the onrushing Leitzig that originated from a clinical counter-attacking move inside of their own-half.
Victoria Pelova then added a fourth shortly after the hour mark to all-but put the game to bed with another well-taken finish on the break.
Stina Blackstenius made it another five-star display for Arsenal at the King Power Stadium in the 75th minute, slotting home Pelova’s pin-point pass beyond Leitzig, before fellow second-half sub Lina Hurtig rounded off the scoring with a sensational sixth second-half goal for the Gunners deep into stoppage-time.
A comprehensive tale of two very differing halves of football sees Arsenal move to within three points of reigning champions Chelsea at the top of the Barclays Women’s Super League standings. On the other hand, Leicester will look back at their first-half performance with fond memories – but certainly not very much at the second, as the Foxes will now look to bounce back against Tottenham Hotspur, again at the King Power, in a week’s time.