Arsenal 5-1 Watford: Gunners fly past London Colney rivals to continue their Adobe Women’s FA Cup run

It was a London Colney derby day in Borehamwood, with Barclays Women’s Super League contenders Arsenal playing host to Championship side Watford. The fourth round of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup saw Arsenal sporting an all-white kit drained of their iconic red, in support of the ‘No More Red’ campaign – a passionate movement working to protect young people from street violence.

ARS: Zinsberger; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Ilestedt, Fox, Wälti, Pelova, Miedema, Mead, Foord, Russo

WAT: Goldsmid; León, Meiwald, Agyemang, Georgiou, Harbert, Wilson, Fyfe, Haines, Reid, Henson

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Jonas Eidevall presented an impressive squad sheet for Arsenal’s first appearance in this season’s Adobe Women’s FA Cup. Perhaps the most notable appearance came in the form of Emily Fox, with the USWNT defender making her first starting appearance for Arsenal after signing just this week. Katie McCabe captained the side, whilst a long awaited link-up between Alessia Russo and Vivianne Miedema led the line.

Damon Lawtrhope’s Watford side for the afternoon consisted of some familiar faces to Meadow Park. Three dual-contracted Gunners in Michelle Agyemang, Katie Reid, and Laila Habert all lined up for the Hornets against their parent club after Jonas Eidevall said he did not feel comfortable ‘denying them of their potential development.’

The Gunners picked up the first scoring chance of the afternoon through Alessia Russo, as the Arsenal striker expertly collected the crumbs of a saved deflection from Victoria Pelova’s long-range attempt . Russo arrived at the scene with hunger, poking home the advantage for the Gunners in just the sixth minute of play.

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The home side continued to raise the tempo inside of Meadow Park, generating serious concerns for Watford’s last line. Though despite the troubling concerns for Watford’s defensive structure, Lucía León was persistent in eliminating the left-side threat of a streaming Caitlin Foord. 

Her best efforts were to no avail though, as a well-drilled set piece was executed in pin-point fashion by the Gunners. A fast moving corner by Katie McCabe found a roaming Beth Mead outside of the area, whose cross was expertly left to run by Victoria Pelova, as Mead’s searching strike rolled through to an unmarked Lia Wälti. The Swiss midfielder found the net with ease, doubling Arsenal’s advantage for the afternoon heading into the thirteenth minute.

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A dire situation dared to worsen for the visitors, as Mead’s searching ball looked to arrive at the feet of a streaming Vivianne Miedema. The Dutch striker was dispossessed inside the area though, denying Arsenal of their third.

The half-time interval was warmly welcomed by the visitors, presenting an opportunity for Damon Lathrope’s side to regroup heading into the closing half. Neither side opted to alter their line-ups at the interval, instead heading into the second half of play unchanged.

A dire situation grew worse for the visitors, as Arsenal once again capitalised on an opportunity inside of the area. After an excellent afternoon in the middle third for Victoria Pelova, the Dutch midfielder broke Watford’s last line with a piercing ball through to Stina Blackstenius. Without need for a controlling touch, Blackstenius’s poised finish gave the Gunners their third.

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The visitors were permitted with a moment of reprise come the second half, as a blunder at the back from Arsenal’s last line saw Michelle Agyemang reap the rewards and open Watford’s scoring account in Borehamwood. Despite conceding under disappointing circumstances, Agyemang’s score was met with minimal hostility, as Gunners fans were found impressed by their contracted young star.

Arsenal’s domination only faced a short-windowed trough, as the Gunners immediately gained back the control of the fixture. Mead capitalised on an awarded corner, as an optimal cross searched and found the head of Amanda Ilestedt in the fixture’s closing minutes. Becoming known for being lethal in the air, it was Ilestedt’s header that punched another hole in Watford’s sails.

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Eidevall’s armoury refused to release their grip over London Colney, and their persistence was awarded once again just mere moments later. This time it was Frida Maanum who found the net, settling the score in Arsenal’s 5-1 domination in the fourth round of the Adobe Women’s FA Cup.