Arsenal reached the last four of the Women’s Champions League with a 2-0 win over Bayern after a memorable night at the Emirates.
The Gunners trailed 1-0 on aggregate after last week’s narrow defeat in Bavaria but Frida Maanum ignited the touch paper in the 20th minute. The Arsenal No.12 producing a stunning strike from the edge of the box after a wonderful tee-up from England captain Leah Williamson, giving Bayern keeper Maria Grohs no chance.
Bayern couldn’t breathe in the first half as the hosts dominated, and when Stina Blackstenius nodded home after great work from Katie McCabe, Arsenal were ahead in the tie for the first time. Only wasteful finishing from the Gunners ensured the tie was still in the balance going into the closing stages, with Williamson, Blackstenius, McCabe and Caitlin Foord missing good chances.
Bayern rallied late on but backed by a crowd of just over 21,000 – a record for an English women’s European tie – Arsenal held firm.
Here are the big moments from the Emirates.
Maanum stunner sets the tone
After they were harshly beaten in Germany, Arsenal needed a moment to land a blow on Bayern, and they got lift off thanks to Frida Maanum’s wonderful effort in the 20th minute. The midfielder finished off a wonderful flowing Arsenal move, with Stina Blackstenius and Leah Willimason combing to give her the perfect set-up.
Maanum did the rest; her right-footed drive from just outside the box left Grohs in the Bayern goal completely helpless and in a moment, it felt like the whole tie had turned around. It may have only been one goal, but the Norwegian’s moment of a magic seemed to turn this quarter-final completely on its head.
Williamson shift into midfield pays off
In a tie full of odd refereeing decisions, the decision not to even give a foul when Kim Little was hacked down by Sarah Zadrazil when charging through the midfield was the strangest. Zadrazil should have definitely entered the book, while Little was forced off after receiving treatment.
The only positive was the Scottish midfielder walked off herself, despite the stretcher being called for. Leah Williamson moved into midfield and took the armband from her stricken teammate
The England captain proceeded to play like a woman on a mission, rampaging around the Emirates pitch and constantly giving Bayern problems. Not only was she involved in the build-up for both goals, Williamson very nearly got one herself before half-time with a header at the back post only inches away.
At 3-0, that would have killed the tie, but Williamson continued to dominate the midfield alongside Georgia Stanway. Little’s injury relates to her hamstring and although she could be a big miss in the coming weeks, for Wednesday night, at least, it seemed to inadvertently supercharge the Arsenal performance.
Blackstenius comes up with big moment
Stina Blackstenius has steadily improved her form over the last month and produced one of her best displays in a red shirt when it mattered most. The Swedish forward’s season seemed to turn after scoring the winner against Manchester City in the Conti Cup semi-final.
On Wednesday night, she provided another huge moment in the Gunners’ season to give them the lead for the first time in the quarter-final. After Victoria Pelova’s cross was overhit, Katie McCabe flew forward and drove into the penalty area.
Arsenal players were queuing up to get on the end of the Ireland internationals’ perfect cross, and in the end it was Blackstenius who got the crucial touch. From that moment on, Arsenal had control of the tie.
Pelova proves her worth
After impressing in the north London derby, Pelova once again showed why she proved a shrewd signing in January. The former Ajax forward, along with Caitlin Foord on the opposite flank, gave the Bayern full-backs problems from the first minute.
Pelova looked at home in front of the Emirates crowd, often raising the volume levels with her aggressive presses and clever touches. She may still be adapting to English football, but in Europe she already looks a seasoned campaigner.
Second-half Gooners’ rearguard holds firm
It wasn’t until the hour mark when Bayern truly began to make their presence felt in north London. Lotte Wubben-Moy, who had replaced Little, made a crucial block to deny Lea Schuller from close-range.
At the other end, Katie McCabe danced into the Bayern penalty area only to shoot narrowly wide. Slowly, Bayern crept into the game with Lioness Stanway’s influence on the contest growing.
But substitute Wubben-Moy and Rafa Souza held firm in defence, while Manuela Zinsberger stayed calm and composed throughout. It was a mature European performance, particularly in the closing stages, and one that will give Jonas Eidevall real belief his team can lift the trophy.
Atmosphere matches magnificent occasion
So often women’s football can get caught up in attendance figures. For the record, there were 21,307 inside the Emirates on a very damp and dreary Wednesday night in March – a record for an English women’s European tie.
But whether you think that is good, bad or indifferent isn’t really the point. From the moment the teams emerged into the north London downpour, you could feel the electricity throughout the ground. That edge that only a big European night under the lights can provide was here to see from the get-go.
Arsenal’s supporters were fantastic throughout. An early foul on Katie McCabe drew a huge roar of appeals from the far stand and from that moment on, that cauldron was lit.
They even took their team home with a stirring rendition of “stand-up for the Arsenal” midway through the second half.
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