When all seems doom and gloom in the land of Arsenal men it is refreshing to know that, once again, we can turn to the ladies team and find some cheer and, more importantly, hope.
Facing Everton at Meadow Park yesterday, Arsenal’s ladies knew that they were a mere 180 minutes away from claiming the inaugural Women’s Super League and they didn’t disappoint. In what was always going to be a tough match, Arsenal managed to secure a 1-0 victory with a strike from Kim Little nine minutes in to the second half.
The starting line-up for this decisive game showed the coaching staff had learnt the lessons from the away defeat away to Everton two and a half week ago. Steph Houghton, who had a tough game against Gwen Harries at right back, was dropped and Gilly Flaherty was drafted from center back to counter the Welsh winger with her pace. This meant Faye White starting at center back alongside Ciara Grant to deal with Natasha Dowie’s physical strength. In midfield the combination of two small players in Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little was not repeated and in came Jayne Ludlow with her strength, power and leadership on the pitch which were missing for most of the away game. Up front in-form player Danielle Carter was selected ahead of Ellen White while Fleeting continuing at center forward along with the evergreen Rachel Yankey.
It was the same starting 11 as on Sunday against Doncaster Belles and it now appears that the 3-0 win was indeed a tactical dress rehearsal for yesterday’s game.
With the score still 0-0 at half time despite dominating the opposition, it seemed obvious that Arsenal would up the pressure and the team came out with all guns blazing displaying a higher intensity and energy in the second half. There was only one team for the first 15 minutes of the second half and it was no surprise that Arsenal managed to open the scoring thanks to Kim Little. The top players will always come good when the team need them and with the game very tight, Little managed to evade a defender, find a little space and shoot from 20 yards and putting it in the back of the net past a despairing Rachel Brown’s dive. With the lead taken, the team settled and allowed Everton to take control of the game a little more while Arsenal were content to hit them on the break.
Ellen White came on soon after the goal in order to provide more pace and exploit the space behind the Everton left back who is not the fastest player and she did cause trouble with her runs down the wing. Everton pressure nearly paid off with Dowie escaping her markers and shooting from close range only to see Emma Byrne deny her with a match winning save. Laura Harvey then sent Jennifer Beattie up front and she nearly scored with her first touch but her shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle. Steph Houghton was sent on late for Gilly Flaherty to solidify the tiring and under pressure defence while Mo Marley sent on Bronze and Hinnigan to try and conjure an equaliser that thankfully never came.
Special mention must go to the referee, Sian Massey, who had a great game and kept things under control in what was a tense and physical game. At the final whistle the crowd went wild and started singing “we are top of the League”.
Indeed for the first time this season, Arsenal are top of the League. A win against bottom of the table Liverpool in two weeks will bring another trophy to the Emirates alongside the FA WSL Umbro 5 won during the close season.
There is only one match left in this years season.
Next match – v Liverpool (a) Sunday August 28th 2pm kick-off.
Report compiled by LadyArse and Calimero. Read more at www.ladyarse.com