Manchester City Women 5 – 2 Arsenal Women
Three second-half goals in the space of ten minutes saw Manchester City Women prevail in their Women’s Super League clash with Arsenal Women at the Academy Stadium after the league champions beat their title rivals 5-2 to maintain their 100% start to the season in the lunchtime kick-off. Both sides started with a win in their respective openers last weekend and saw this being a big game already, between two of the biggest sides in English Women’s Football of the modern era.
City started off the brighter of the two teams, with Nikita Parris going close with a curling effort inside ninety-seconds of the game but the England International saw Sarah van Veenendaal making the save for the visitors. The WSL champions have lost a couple of their big names players to some of Europe’s big names in recent months after Toni Duggan and more recently Lucy Bronze left for pastures new to Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais, despite the losses to the side, they still looked just as attacking and a constant menace to their opposition as they have done to side for the last few seasons. Arsenal’s first meaningful effort shot on goal, saw Heather O’Reilly dragging her shot wide of Ellie Roebucks’ goal in the 12th minute of play and sent a warning to the home side.
The visitors played with only ten players on the field at one point, as for a spell of at least five-minutes it saw the Gunners Lisa Evans taking a raised boot to the face off Nikita Parris and led to the Arsenal player getting treatment on touchline. One of the new signings this summer for Nick Cushing’s side is Scottish International Claire Emslie and after her impressive debut in City’s 4-0 win over Yeovil last week, it saw the new girl trying her luck from long range and have van Veenendaal making an easy save. Parris had another chance for the hosts midway through the first half when the visitors got caught out in defence by Jill Scott, and her ball was played into the path of the striker and was forced to shoot wide. Star of this summer’s European Championships for England in Jodie Taylor saw the striker almost breaking the deadlock minutes later in the game when the Gunners striker lobbed the ball over Ellie Roebuck and thankfully for City, the ball missed the target.
Jane Ross scored the opening goal of the game in the 39th minute, as a great cross into the box by Abbie McManus saw the Scotland International turning the ball home at the near post to give City the lead and a deserved one for that. Arsenal kept coming at the home side and saw them not really troubling the City defence in truth, but when they did finally get behind the Blues defence it saw O’Reilly handling the ball in the area and picking up a yellow card.
As the half was winding down it looked like the teams would go into the break all square after a header from a Jordan Nobbs corner saw Arsenal back in the game at 1-1, but there was still time for more drama before the break. Nikita Parris then had an effort from outside the box beaten away by keeper Sarah van Veenendaal once again for a corner kick. From the resulting corner, it saw Claire Emslie putting the ball under the crossbar for the home side and have the keeper unable to claim in the air and have the ball falling nicely to former Gunner Steph Houghton, and the City captain fired home for a 2-1 half time lead.
Heather O’Reilly helped draw Arsenal level early in the second half, after a cross by Alex Scott saw a lack of communication between Steph Houghton and Ellie Roebuck in the City penalty area which saw the two jumping for the ball and had O’Reilly on hand to head it on goal and make it all-square. This coincided with the visitors having their best spell of the game so far and have Arsenal with their tails up and looking the much better side in the contest.
Izzy Christiansen then stretched out a leg to try and prod home a Claire Emslie cross for City, but yet again the Dutch keeper for Gunners was alert to the danger. Jordan Nobbs who scored a stunner to beat the Blues back in the spring series back in May, then saw her almost scoring another when O’Reilly passed back out towards Nobbs and saw her high curling effort striking the bar and forced City to scramble the ball away from danger. That seemed to be the wake-up call that the league champions needed to jolt them back into action and saw them battling back.
The Citizens then led for the third time in the contest at the 70th minute mark through a Georgia Stanway goal to see the Blues going back in front at 3-2. It saw some nice build-up play from the home side in which Jill Scott played a nicely weighted ball between the two Arsenal central-defenders and then saw Stanway being quick to latch onto the pass and put it past van Veenendaal for the lead. Minutes later it saw Stanway nearly grabbing a second goal for herself, when the youngster saw her fierce shot well saved by the goalie and began to see the home side taking the wind out of the visitors’ sails with that third goal.
Arsenal contributed to their own downfall and saw Izzy Christiansen putting the nail in the coffin for the away side on 73 minutes, when Nobbs was dispossessed by the City midfielder in the middle of the park and had the England midfielder bearing down on goal and curl a low shot in the far post for a 4-2 lead. The game as a contest was effectively over now as the Arsenal side looked dejected and saw their hopes of a comeback all but come crashing down upon them after conceding that fourth City goal. In all honesty though, neither side really looked like their normal selves and in truth was mostly down to which side could cut out the most mistakes in their game would take victory.
It seemed a double-edged sword really, as you could make the case that both teams weren’t playing at their best with the season still early in it’s infancy, but at the same time when they clicked it was a thing of beauty to watch. The latter could certainly have been used for City in the second half though, as the home side were dominant after the fourth goal went in and saw the home side hammering home their advantage from there on in. Jill Scott made it five with just over ten minutes of play left in the contest to go and saw a lovely team move, that started from the back and ended up with a lovely finish. Keira Walsh then sprayed the ball out wide to Claire Emslie on the wing and from there she played a nice ball ahead for Jill Scott, to which saw the City midfielder smashing the ball past the despairing dive of Sari van Veenendaal in the visitors net on the volley for 5-2.
The win sees the Blues remaining unbeaten and lying second but only on goal difference to rivals Chelsea, who haven’t yet conceded a goal in their two games to date. City travel to Austria next with a Women’s Champions League tie on Wednesday night against St Polten before facing the Everton Ladies next Saturday night in Widnes.