Gunners shade it
A slow burner, the first real chance of the match didn’t come until after a failed corner at each end and a penalty shout from Nikita Parris that had been swiftly waved away. A flurry of light pressure in the City box saw Vivianne Miedema shank her control, the ball bouncing around until the Citizens cleared it out to Dominque Janssen. A player with a vicious shot on her, the Dutch midfielder took aim from 40-yards and lashed the ball towards Ellie Roebuck’s goal, the ‘keeper flat-footed as the ball rocketed against the crossbar.
Struggling for clear cut chances, the Gunners shaded the opportunities, the ball in City’s half more often than not, those in blue not always the most convincing in attack though the let-off was those in red weren’t so smooth in attack either. The deadlock broken 12 minutes before the break when Janssen chased a long ball down the left flank, her ball in splitting the defence. Left behind the centre backs, Miedema had the time to bring the ball down and slot it low beyond Roebuck.
Having won a succession of free kicks, there was little Izzy Christiansen could do with the dead balls, her routine whipped delivery continuously into the mixer, the resulting headers never managing to trouble Sari van Veenendaal.
Two minutes into the second half and Arsenal were already looking for a second, a direct free kick from Janssen curled over and around the wall, angling itself towards to the top right corner, the shot just overhit.
A free header for Jill Scott saw City’s best chance, half-time substitute Jane Ross the one trying to make an impact as she fed the ball into the box, the claim a comfortable one for van Veenendaal. The Dutch shot stopper called into action again moments later to deny Ross directly, the Scottish international popping up on the other flank to cause early troubles. Looking like they’d found their stride, City claimed the next chance, more intent in midfield allowing Georgia Stanway to find the ball and take aim from range, the ball slipping just over the bar.
The ball slotted forward, Miedema saw a glorious chance to double the advantage, dogged work form Steph Houghton all to deny her as she turned in the area and looked to release the chance.
A second change for City saw Christiansen replaced by a fresher Claire Emslie, Nick Cushing’s bench came together as Emslie and Ross completed a one-two. Emslie’s cross headed goalwards by Parris, the shot straight down van Veenendaal’s throat, the pressure on Arsenal’s defence mounting. The Citizens denied an equaliser by their own lack of punch, van Veenendaal committed to go with Demi Stokes leaving her goal wide open, the ball sent across the line and Ross, who only needed a touch to send the ball home, missing the ball completely. Another header from Parris sent towards goal at a corner, a frantic clearance on the line necessary as the Gunners scrambled.
With little more than fifteen minutes left on the clock, Arsenal began to push back against the City, doing their best to keep their opposition up the pitch, stemming the tide and easily the pressure on the defence. As Arsenal made their second change of the night, another like-for-like attacking one as Cushing rolled the dice for one last time.
Another flying run from Emslie saw Lisa Evans make a sterling sliding tackle against her countrywoman to stop the cross, the resulting corner put behind, the second eventually cleared. The match increasingly more stretched as City continued to hunt for their equaliser, Arsenal considerably less bright in the second half but doing enough to keep their opponents out.
Having ridden out the storm, Arsenal eased the clock down with a final substitution and an injury delay, leaving City with just four minutes of stoppage time to find their crucial equaliser. The dying seconds a picture of desperate attacking football from the Citizens, blue shirts flocked forward as Arsenal began to count down the seconds, the time all run down for City.