Arsenal Women grabbed a bonus point victory in the Continental Cup Group stage last night, with a win via penalties over North London rivals spurs.
The Gunners appeared to be cruising, but were pegged back twice and the result sees our team drop out of the Cup, as the bonus point was not enough to grab one of the two runner up spots in the competition.
It sees Arsenal drop points by the finest of margins twice within days, as on Sunday we missed out on beating arch rivals Chelsea thanks to an extra time own goal.
Gunners boss Joe Montemurro was pleased with his side’s display against the Blues, but this result will give him some concern, as we twice let our concentration slip to allow spurs to equalise.
Montemurro changed his team selection from the weekend. Aussie goalkeeper Lydia Williams made her Arsenal debut, with Zinsberger dropping to the bench. Danielle Van De Donk came back into the side at the expense of Beth Mead, but those were the only two changes.
The first half was an exercise in possession for Arsenal, and an early goal was just reward for our team. Kim Little is an ever-reliable source of creativity and inspiration, and her lobbed pass over the prone spurs defence found Miedema, who finished unerringly to grab her 15th of the season.
Our dominance in the first half didn’t convert to more goals however. We huffed and puffed but we couldn’t quite find the killer blow. With our team needing a four goal swing to get out of the group, the first half wasa frustrating one as spurs added very little threat.
They would make us pay in the second half for our profligacy.
It is of no surprise that after Kim Little went off at half time, the tide began to turn for Arsenal. Lisa Evans was brought on in her stead but Little brings calm and in possession, she has no equal. So spurs began to grow into the game and they grabbed an equaliser when a cross found Ria Percival, who controlled the ball well before firing past Williams. Spurs’ Alex Morgan, the US superstar had also been subbed on and she was having an impact, always in the thick of things and giving our defence a workout.
Montemurro probably sensed that we would not qualify for the next stage, so he hooked Miedema and gave her a breather, with Mead coming on in the 73rd minute. Two minutes previously we had retaken the lead through Caitlin Foord, but we still needed another three goals and with less than twenty to play, it was looking unlikely. Montemurro chose the fitness of his players and two of our most important players were now off the pitch.
Spurs kept coming though and were arguably the better side for the last twenty and they grabbed an equaliser from a corner. It was the last goal of the game and it meant penalties to decide who would grab the plaudits – but the only reward would be North London bragging rights.
All four penalties were scored by both teams and Lia Walti scored Arsenal’s fifth, leaving Alex Morgan needing to score to send it into sudden death – but her penalty was off target and we had won – but our Continental Cup journey was over this season.
There is plenty for boss Joe Montemurro to ruminate on, here’s four things that stood out:
Jen Beattie is back
The Scottish defender has been sorely missed. The established partner for Leah Williamson, Beattie is strong in the air and deceptively quick on the deck and her return as a second half sub was a welcome one. Although Lotte Wubben-Moy has played out of her skin in her stead, another defensive body is exactly what our squad needs.
Kim Little pivotal
The first half, Arsenal were on top and cruising. Little was spared the second half however as Montemurro knew Little had just returned from injury. The second half then slid away from us. Without Little picking the right pass, putting her foot on the ball and dictating play through possession, we simply lacked that boss figure in the centre. Pray she stays fit!
Van De Donk struggling
The Dutch schemer is looking for her best form and has flitted in and out of the side recently. When at her best she can create in any type of game and her darting runs are a real asset. Watch for her to return with a bang soon, but at the moment she is searching for form.
Arsenal Women’s next fixture is some distance away – 06 December Vs Birmingham City Women in the WSL.