Arsenal handed Manchester City their first loss of the the FA Women’s Super League season beating them 1-0 at Meadow Park yesterday.
The Gunners victory over Man City moved them to second in the table while Chelsea go two points ahead at the top of the table.
City had yet to concede or lose this WSL season, but the League’s reigning golden boot winner, Vivianne Miedema, was the one to put an end to City’s impressive start to the season. The Dutch all-time leading goal scorer now tallies up to nine goals in all competitions.
The Citizens studied their title race rivals thoroughly and cut off their midfield. The visitors crowded Arsenal’s centre back, Leah Williamson, who usually feeds the ball into the middle three. After a few adjustments to the team, Joe Montemurro’s side was able to pull City out of their game to exploit the areas left open behind them.
Arsenal’s goal came when Caroline Weir’s poor touch in the midfield saw the ball fall into Kim Little’s path. The Arsenal captain found herself in a pocket of space just in front of the opposition’s defence and threaded a perfectly weighted ball behind the City defensive line for Miedema to run onto and blast into the back of the net just before half-time.
It was an even match with just a slight advantage to the hosts who managed 51% possession. Manchester City managed seven shots, but just two on target and Arsenal got three on target from their nine total attempts. The visitor’s best chance came from a Janine Beckie shot from the right wing that went well over the crossbar.
Arsenal had the better opportunities of the match and could have easily put two or three more past Ellie Roebuck. One of the clearest opportunities missed was a floating ball from Little into the path of Jordan Nobbs who found herself alone in a pocket of space in front of goal but she was unable to get good contact with the ball and volleyed it wide.
It was Nobbs again with another opportunity to give her side a two goal advantage. After Miedema’s high press paid off and she managed to take the ball from centre back, Steph Houghton. Arsenal then found themselves in front of net in a 3v1 situation. The Dutch striker squared the ball to Nobbs who found herself alone on the penalty spot, but she failed to finish and hit the ball just wide of the net.
Post-match, Miedema praised her team for getting the much needed three points after their 2-1 loss against Chelsea two Sundays ago which has left a sour taste lingering.
“It means a lot [to win], but more because we wanted to bounce back after the Chelsea game and we’ve done that today. I think we should have scored two or three more but we’re really happy and now we can focus on Thursday night,” said Miedema.
“We just wanted to win the game. Obviously happy to have helped the team, but I think today was a great team performance.
“We knew it’s going to be a hard game, Man City has a lot of qualities and I think it’s never gonna be an easy game when you play teams like Man City or Chelsea. So we knew we had to be patient and we especially knew that we had to be really good defensively and I think that’s the first and foremost thing we’ve done today.”
Proven to be one of the best defenders in the league, Leah Williamson also emphasized how important it was to have a strong team performance and show that they hold the FAWSL title for a reason.
“We knew it was going to take a champion performance and I think you got the best of both worlds, us playing the good football but also holding on to the win is a hard thing against a top team. But especially after the Chelsea loss we needed three points on the board today so I’m very happy with the team.”
The London derby against Chelsea was the Gunners’ first loss of the season and it seems to have given Williamson and her teammates an extra push to avoid dropping points again.
“It’s good to win and it’s good get a consistent amount of wins in. We just needed to get back on track today so we’ll take everything we’ve done today into Thursday and onto the weekend as well,” she added.
Arsenal manager, Joe Montemurro was happy his team stuck to their style of play, but dismissed the misconception that beating Chelsea and Man City is the only focus in the FAWSL.
“Chelsea was round four, this is round five and if we think that beating Chelsea and beating Man City is the only way that we’re going to win the league, it’s not. A lot of teams are very good in this league and every team is a danger.”
Taking three points away from City should not be undermined, they are still a side who have finished top two in the past four seasons.
“The biggest thing was off the ball. Our collective work ethic and pressing, not allowing them to play was special.
Against Chelsea, Montemurro expressed that his side didn’t stick to his game plan as much as he hoped, but it seems the squad managed to keep themselves focused to win today’s match.
“I think it was pretty evident, especially off the ball they didn’t have any solutions and they weren’t able to find any way through,” said Montemurro.
“All credit to the players we worked during the week on certain things. We worked on dragging them a certain way and also in buildup exploiting some areas. There probably could have been one or two more goals.”
The Gunners have an added workload this season as they make their first Champions League appearance in seven years.
Arsenal have yet to lose a match in the tournament and hope to carry their winning form this Thursday at Meadow Park, going into their second Round of 32 match against Slavia Praha with a 5-2 lead.