Man City make Arsenal pay for woeful first half to go third

Manchester City beat Arsenal 2-1 to move into the WSL’s top three as Jonas Eidevall’s side were made to pay for a woeful first half.

City took advantage of Arsenal’s poor defending to go in 2-0 up at the break thanks to goals from Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly, but should have been out of sight by half-time as the Gunners struggled in a back three.

Man City's Lauren Hemp celebrates her early goal
Man City’s Lauren Hemp celebrates her early goal

Arsenal reverted to a back four in the second half after making a double change at the break and grew into the game as centre-back Rafaelle pulled a goal back for the visitors with a guided header from a set-piece.

But City held on for the victory to move to within two points of league leaders Chelsea while Arsenal stay five points off the pace, having failed to win their last three WSL matches.

Rafaelle Souza celebrates with Kim Little after pulling a goal back for Arsenal
Rafaelle Souza celebrates with Kim Little after pulling a goal back for Arsenal

How City overcame Arsenal

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Lauren Hemp capitalises on Arsenal’s poor defending to put Manchester City ahead.

It took until extra-time on Wednesday night in the League Cup for Arsenal and Man City to break the deadlock, but the hosts took the lead with their first attack on Saturday lunchtime. Hemp just had to tap in at the back post after losing Noelle Maritz to get on the end of Kelly’s low cross.

Arsenal caused problems for themselves by giving up possession deep in their own half on multiple occasions. Lotte Wubben-Moy lost the ball to Bunny Shaw, allowing her through on goal, but City’s top scorer couldn’t find a way past Zinsberger.

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Arsenal struggle to deal with Manchester City’s press which leads to Chloe Kelly scoring their second of the game

City made their domination pay just before the break, capitalising on another instance of Arsenal being poor in possession, as Shaw won the ball from Wubben-Moy again before setting up Kelly to score from close range.

Eidevall brought on Katie McCabe and Lia Walti for Wubben-Moy and Caitlin Foord at half-time in a change which helped Arsenal find a foothold in the game as they returned to a back four. But Stina Blackstenius couldn’t find the back of the net with their first chance, striking a post when through on goal.

Arsenal eventually found a route back into the game from a lofted ball into the box after the hour which was met by defender Rafaelle, whose guiding header found the bottom corner of the net to give the visitors hope of a comeback.

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Arsenal capitalise from a set-piece with a towering header from Rafaelle to get one back against Manchester City

However, City held on to get their revenge on Arsenal after losing to the Gunners in Wednesday’s FA WSL Cup semi-final 1-0 in extra-time and move above their rivals into the Champions League places.

Eidevall takes responsibility for Arsenal defeat

Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall told Sky Sports:

“I think we lost possession way too many times in the game, especially in very dangerous areas. If that’s the positioning or the formation we have at that time, we need to review that of course but when you lose possession in those dangerous areas so many times, it is going to be very difficult to win football matches.

“It is 100% my responsibility that we do not win today so I take that and that’s why I need to look at the game. We tried to implement changes during the game as well but it is 100% my responsibility.

“The effort is there, the players worked very hard, they tried their very best. Today we didn’t win and that’s my responsibility and I look and see how we can do it better.”

Asked if Arsenal have enough depth to challenge, he added: “Of course, I think we have enough players in the squad. We have to all believe in the way that we want to play and then we can create great things together.”

Asked if this was the worst first-half performance he has seen from his side, Eidevall added: “It has competition with the first 45 minutes in the FA Cup final against Chelsea but those two are unfortunately up there. We wanted to give the travelling support much more joy today and I want to thank them for their support and for giving us support and encouragement. Next game, i really want to give back to them.”

Taylor: We should have been out of sight at half-time

Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor told Sky Sports:

“I was so proud of the performance and how gutsy we were in the second half. We should have been out of sight at half-time, we could have been five or six nil up with the chances we created and the pressure that we forced Arsenal into, making errors.

“Super proud of the girls and they really deserved that today.”

Kelly: I’m like a little girl just having fun

Man City’s Chloe Kelly told Sky Sports:

“It was a brilliant day and we knew when we play at home that nobody can play against us. It was a brilliant performance and I feel like we set the tone with our pressing today and when we win the ball back, we know the class that we have and we showed that today.

Asked about Lauren Hemp, she added: “What a girl, what a player. She is unbelievable for us and when you have that link up with such a special player it is brilliant. She’s a great player, great person and I am so pleased to share the pitch with her.”

She added: “Gareth Taylor just gives me confidence at the moment, he’s letting me play free and I’m just enjoying myself on the pitch and when I’m enjoying myself, that’s when I’m at my best and just having fun really. It’s like I’m a little girl just playing football and I’m having fun. Playing with such a great group of girls is brilliant, we showed lots of fight today and it’s about the team. Three points and we move forward.”

What’s next?

Manchester City head to Bristol City in the FA Cup on Sunday February 26 at 2pm before returning to WSL action on Sunday March 5 at home to Tottenham. Kick-off is at 2pm.

Arsenal travel to title rivals Chelsea in the FA Cup on Sunday February 26 at 2pm. They then host Liverpool in the WSL on Sunday March 5 at 2pm.

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