Continental Cup: Arsenal 3-1 West Ham – Gunners hit the ground running
Credit: Kunjan Malde

Kicking off their Continental Cup defence in style, goals from Katie McCabe, Beth Mead enough to set Arsenal on their way with a comprehensive win over West Ham.

Goals for the Gunners

Having endured pressure from the hosts a loose ball from Brooke Hendrix gifted a lurking Beth Mead the chance to nip in and chase into the box. Racing into a one-on-one with Becky Spencer, the attacker was denied her chance to shoot as Gilly Flaherty raced back and across, a perfectly timed slide enough to put the ball behind.

Driving forward once more, spurred on by indecisive defending, the Gunners swarmed the away box, shot after shot met with block after block, red and blue shirts pulled each which way with every deflection. Having already gone to her left, Spencer couldn’t recover quickly enough as the ball dropped to Katie McCabe the Irish international, picking up the top left corner.

Looking for an instant response, Jane Ross was sprung with a long ball that slipped between Dominque Bloodworth and Leah Williamson, but forced wide to pick it up, her shot was weak and easily claimed by Sari van Veenendaal.

Being given chances more than taking them, it was another piece of miss-control from the Hammers that lead to Arsenal’s next chance, the ball skipping away from Brianna Visalli with McCabe ready to pounce. The attacker on her toes to take the ball forward, laying off to Jordan Nobbs instead of pulling the trigger herself, the Arsenal stalwart failed to find a clinical touch, the save made by Spencer.

A foul on Julia Šimić just outside the box gave the Hammers a chance to equalise, but like too much of their play, the effort was uninspired, the ball sent straight into the wall. A team in its infancy, there was little that seemed to work for the visitors, the players too disjointed, more individuals than a team with any serious understanding or rhythm.

Far more polished (and with good reason), the hosts made far more sense when they went forward, the side overrun with attacking influence, willing runners keeping the visiting defence under pressure. Each shot met with a frantic block, the home side promised a second, a thunderous header from Mead their reward for their incisive play, the build up between Lisa Evans and McCabe enough to cut through and set up the striker.

Hammers hit back

Starting the second half with purpose, heavy pressure from West Ham saw them claw a goal back, a header from Ross in the first minute the warning for the hosts. Diligent work from Leanne Kiernan enough to keep the ball alive in the area, her cut-back slotted into the bottom right corner by Visalli.

Having more joy in the second half, Kiernan streaked down the right once again, her ball into the box well met by Ross, the Scot’s effort easily claimed by van Veenendaal as the Hammers probed for an equaliser. With a greater foothold in the match after the break, the visitors found more presence in midfield, not letting Arsenal have things their own way, yet too often their attacks were hopeful individual endeavours.

Sprung again on the right, Kiernan chased a long ball in behind, the defence left for dust as van Veenendaal came out to narrow the angle, the attacker’s shot from the by-line skipping across the face of goal, Visalli too far back to connect.

With far more of a back and forth feel to the match, the Gunners instantly countered, Vivianne Miedema held off as she and Hendrix tussled inside the box, appeals for a penalty falling on deaf ears as the Dutch woman had her shirt tugged. Back-to-back corners gave Spencer something to think about but a lack of aerial polish kept the match finely poised.

With most of the players parked in midfield, both teams were suspect on the counter, the next best chance falling to the visitors, again it was Kiernan who was involved, her cross touched away by van Veenendaal as Esme de Graaf arrived at the back post.

Not having things all their own way but still threatening in attack, the Gunners put the game to bed ten minutes from time, McCabe’s turn and shoot slipping inside of Spencer’s near post and rippling into the back of the net. Back with the bit between the teeth, Arsenal were soon pushing for a fourth, working the defence, Evans saw a shot cannon off of the upright before Lia Wälti left Spencer’s gloves stinging with a shot from range.