Arsenal 0-1 Manchester City: Aleixandri slams home as City progress to FA Cup quarterfinals

The Fifth Round of the 2023/24 Adobe Women’s FA Cup saw Arsenal welcome Manchester City to Meadow Park. Only three points separate the two sides in the Barclays Women’s Super League, and a bumper crowd was expected as a spot in the quarterfinals awaits.

ARS: D’Angelo; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Williamson, Fox; Cooney-Cross, Pelova; Foord, Maanum, Mead; Russo

MCI: Keating; Ouahabi, Greenwood, Aleixandri, Casparij; Coombs, Hasegawa; Hemp, Park, Kelly; Shaw

With two of the country’s strongest sides pitted in a winner-takes-all cup tie, there was always bound to be a chance that the match became a rather scrappy affair. That was indeed the case, though Arsenal fashioned the first real chance of note as Khiara Keating was called upon to deny a curling Caitlin Foord strike.

Lauren Hemp would then see her attempt on goal blocked well by Katie McCabe just minutes later – but as the interval grew nearer, both sides’ inability to capitalise on their chances continued. Foord was notably the recipient of a through ball from Victoria Pelova, before falling victim to the offside flag.

The Gunners fashioned their best chance of the half in stoppage time though, with Kyra Cooney-Cross’ delivery towards the far post nodded over the woodwork by Beth Mead. In truth, Jonas Eidevall’s side had been lucky to enter the break with 11 players still on the pitch – with McCabe in particular involved in a number of fiery affairs.

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The first fifteen minutes of the second half saw Arsenal’s dominance shine through, with Sunday’s hosts forcing Keating into action yet again as Foord darted along the byline. The Manchester City shotstopper was clattered in the aftermath, but was able to continue and was soon called upon again to tip a fierce effort over the crossbar following a corner.

But perhaps the most impressive save of the match thus far came just after the hour mark, as Sabrina D’Angelo leapt to her left to parry a thunderous headed effort wide of the post. There had been a marked improvement in quality since the players resumed from the break, with both sides appearing more threatening in front of goal.

With a little over fifteen minutes of regulation time remaining in Borehamwood, Manchester City snatched the lead from a Chloe Kelly free-kick. Arsenal failed to clear the danger, allowing Laia Aleixandri to smash home the first goal of the afternoon.

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The Gunners would not be resigned to defeat easily – though as the clock ticked over into the final fifteen minutes, Emily Fox saw her shot fly just wide of the upright. Stina Blackstenius would too be cruelly denied in the dying stages of the game, with the substitute’s header held well by Keating.

The announcement of an additional minutes sparked life back into the 3,496-strong crowd at Meadow Park, but continued goalkeeping excellence from Keating was enough for Gareth Taylor’s Cityzens to retain their lead and progress through to the quarterfinals. Having been heckled by the home faithful throughout the match, the England international pushed a fierce Kim Little effort over the bar.

Manchester City will not have to wait long to find out their next opponents in the Adobe Women’s FA Cup, with the quarterfinal draw set to take place live on BBC One on Monday evening. It’s a huge week for Manchester City, as they could claim the top spot in the Barclays Women’s Super League with a win against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow on Friday.

As for Arsenal, they will contest their rescheduled Conti Cup fixture against London City Lionesses in midweek before welcoming Manchester United to Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with the match expected to break yet another attendance record.