Despite taking an early lead through Nadia Nadim, Manchester City slipped to a defeat away to Arsenal as second half goals from Daniëlle van de Donk and Beth Mead turned the tie.
City off and running
Having lost their spot at the top during the week, City hit the ground running in London, penning the hosts back from the whistle. Muted away to Liverpool, the Citizens looked to press early, with Georgia Stanway showing her tenacity in midfield before the hosts found her footing. An aimless cross from Nikita Parris gifted possession back to the Gunners as they strode forward, their Dutch attack linking as Vivianne Miedema completed a one-two with Daniëlle van de Donk before releasing Lisa Evans. The cross from the converted Scot overcooked but Arsenal refused to move from the away half, regaining possession the hosts saw the first real chance, Jordan Nobbs’ well-struck effort from 18-yards turned over the bar by Karen Bardsley.
Pushed back the Citizens struck on the counter, pouncing on a weak ball from Dominque Janssen, Stanway carried the ball forward before slipping it through to Nadia Nadim. A slip from Sari van Veenendaal at the worst moment saw the goal open up for Nadim who slotted the ball past the Dutch number one into the bottom corner. Waning under the pressure from the visitors, the host found a reprieve and another snapshot from Nobbs, the added distance forcing her hopeful shot over the bar.
Camping out in the attacking half, City looked to further their advantage, not just aiming for a cushion in the match but aware that if Chelsea are to drop points the league could very easily be decided on goal difference.
A flashed cross from Parris found Nadim rising beyond the back post, her header enough to beat van Veenendaal but one that refused to drops soon enough, the ball landing on the roof of the net. Finding parity in midfield, the hosts began to work forward with a greater frequency, their attacks containing increasing numbers but with no reward to show for their work. Two shots found their way into Bardsley’s gloves in quick succession, the shot-stopper well protected by her defence, the efforts from the Gunners muted by the number of blue shirts in and around the box.
A player not afraid to shoot, Nobbs saw another effort come close ten minutes before the break, her fizzed shot pushed behind by Bardsley as the ‘keeper stretched across her goal to maintain her clean sheet. With neither team able to get a hold of the match, the ball returned into midfield, the tie finely poised at the break.
A deflected shot from Beth Mead looked to set the tone for the second half, red pressure soon telling as the hosts found parity. A mistake from the opposition the catalyst to the goal again, this time Nobbs was the one who pounced, the ball slipped to van de Donk who, like Nadim before her found the bottom right corner.
Enjoying the better of it, the Gunners saw another low chance deflected wide this time after smooth interplay in the box that saw the ball moved from Nobbs to Mead through to Miedema before Kim Little took aim. The resulting short corner disappointing but not fully cleared by City, the ball stuck in one half and not going anywhere.
Having absorbed a flurry of City pressure, the hosts went straight back to work, the ball sent forward and fired across the face into the far side of the net by Mead.
Off of the pace in the second half, City laboured to get going in attack, the visitors struggling to find a way through the fired-up Arsenal side. A searing run from Evans saw the ball fed in, whooshing past its intended target, van de Donk picked it up on the far side of the box, her curler sent wide. The chances kept coming for the hosts, a flurry of corners left unconverted before Miedema sent the ball high over the bar from point-blank range.
Desperately in need of goals and with little time to find them, Nick Cushing made his third and final change, Izzy Christiansen looking for an instant impact, her bullet header sent over the bar. Finding slightly more fluency late in the day, City looked to hurt their hosts, another cross from the right floated to the far post, this time Parris the one with the effort, her shot held.
With nothing more than stoppage time left, City continued to hunt for an equaliser as the Gunners ran the clock out, keeping plenty left in attack, the added time used for substitutes, Alex Scott given one final run out. The race for second back on.