Manchester City Women 1 – 0 Arsenal Ladies
Title chasing Manchester City Women took a break away from the Women’s Super League to face Arsenal Ladies in the Continental Cup Semi-Final at the City Academy Stadium and saw a Jennifer Beattie goal ten minutes from time proving to be the difference against the cup holders, to end a tough week for the club on happy note.
This past week saw the tragic passing of former Manchester City Women’s EDS youngster Zoe Tynan, as the whole squad wore shirts with ‘Tynan 14’ on the back and a photo of her on the front during the warm-ups. Before kick-off there was a moments silence followed by an applause for the former Everton & City player and saw emotions needing to be put to one side once the action got underway. The first half was a very scrappy affair with neither side really taking charge and saw a stalemate between the two rivals.
City had more of the attacking threat in the opening half hour of the game, with Toni Duggan nearly latching onto a through ball and needed Arsenal’s Alex Scott to just poke the ball away from the England International’s path. The game seemed to be riddled with nerves and play being mainly in the middle of the park, as Jennifer Beattie almost assisted Asisat Oshoala in opening the scoring as her under hit pass was collected and needed Marie Hourihan to quickly claim the ball as the City keeper came running off her line to dive at the feet of the Arsenal forward. It was a game of few chances and saw the better ones falling the way of the home side in the first half, with Toni Duggan having the best chance for the hosts after good build play by the home side saw Izzy Christiansen rolling the ball off to Duggan, who saw the striker shooting straight at the keeper and either of her and it was a goal.
Danielle Van De Donk had Arsenal’s best chance of the half, when a ball in the area came towards her and she could put her effort over the bar as she was being closed down by a City defender. Van De Donk was in the wars over the space of five minutes, when she crumpled in a heap with the ball and no one around her as she seemed to pull something and then the player jumped up for a header with Jennifer Beattie outside the City box and saw her coming worse in the challenge. That brought a change for the visitors, as Vicky Losada came on to replace the injured Arsenal midfielder who went off with a cut to her head. Arsenal pressed for a goal and saw Lucy Bronze tracking back to make a good tackle and dispossess Oshoala and saw her clear away from trouble.
Second half saw much more in the way of an open contest between the teams, with it almost feeling like neither side wanted it go to extra time. Arsenal had the first effort in the second half through Danielle Carter, as the scorer of the Gunners winning FA Cup goal back in May, saw the striker blaze her shot over after a good find from Dominique Janssen in the City penalty area and should have done better. Steph Houghton then saw her replicating a similar miss minutes later, when the City captain’s attempted volley saw her unable to keep it down and nearly went over the roof behind goal. The two Manchester City centre-back’s in Houghton and Beattie saw them put in a good shift for the home side, as they managed to work in tandem to block a Carter shot on goal and keep the game goalless, but you sensed a goal was on the horizon.
City fans and players were getting incensed that some of the pulling from the visiting side was going unpunished and some decisions seemed to be going the other way, so when Lucy Bronze had the speed on her former England International team mate Kelly Smith, the Arsenal player dragged her down to the ground and received the first yellow card of the game. Players were losing their footing on the wet surface in the second period, and so when Toni Duggan had managed to turn the Arsenal defender inside-out, her attempted shot went wide of the post as she slipped at the worst possible time. Some lack of communication and concentration at the back for the home side nearly allowed Asisat Osahola to net a opener for the North London side, but Marie Hourihan was on hand to make the a good save from her and saw the rebound come out to Carter was fired wide of the goal.
Arsenal then enjoyed their best spell in the game and put the home side in real trouble, so when Danielle Carter’s 25-yard effort struck the crossbar you began to think if the Gunners were going to steal a march on their hosts in the game. Nikita Parris then made a run on the outside of Casey Stoney and was hauled down just outside the area and saw the second yellow card being handed out and gave the home side a chance of go ahead. The host then broke the deadlock ten minutes from time, after a free kick was fizzed in by Toni Duggan and saw an attempted clearance by Arsenal ricocheting off another Gunners player and right into the path of Jennifer Beattie and the Scottish defender tucked home against her former club from close range and put City 1-0 ahead.
Play was then predominantly in the City half for the remainder of the game and had all the blue shirted players back in their own half as they faced an onslaught of Arsenal attacks again and again, with Kelly Smith looking like she was level the match up until captain Steph Houghton managed to clear the ball away off the line and preserve the home side’s lead. Georgia Stanway then came on to replace Toni Duggan for the rest of the match as she went down with cramp towards the end of the ninety minutes, after running herself into the ground in the second half for the Blues. The home fans were left bemused when the board said six minutes added, as it seemed to just add to the drama of the contest.
Time and time again Arsenal came at the hosts and were left thwarted by a blue shirt blocking their efforts on goal and seeing the home side putting their bodies in the way to stop their opponents from levelling the game. With one last attack by the visitors coming to nothing, it had the referee blowing his whistle and sending City back to a Continental Cup Final and in doing so repeated their 2014 heroics over the team they won the title against in Arsenal and by the same score too. After the game emotions poured out of players with tiredness and some in tears as Jill Scott was needed to be consoled by a Steph Houghton and couple of others as this was an emotional win for the home and had the home fans singing ‘She’s one of our own, Zoe Tynan she’s one of our own.’
It will be a battle of the Blues in the Continental Cup Final, with Manchester City setting up a meeting with Birmingham City Women on their own turf on October 2nd with the final being played at the Academy stadium. Before that takes place however, Nick Cushing’s side will face a Arsenal Ladies side in the Women’s Super League next Sunday evening with revenge very much on their mind as the two renew battle at Boreham Wood.