It was another high scoring affair under the lights at Meadow Park in midweek as Arsenal continued where they left off against Bristol City, thrashing London Bees 9-0 to top their FA Women’s Continental League Cup group and confirm The Bees’ exit from the competition.
On what was a freezing cold Wednesday evening in North London, Arsenal showed their class once again, knowing that a win or draw would secure top spot in the group and a knockout round match-up against one of the second-placed sides. They produced another flurry of goals, including hat-tricks from Katie McCabe as well as youngster Melisa Filis.
The win capped off a ruthless few weeks for The Gunners in which they have scored 20 goals in just their last two home games. They have been unstoppable; tearing teams apart and scoring goals for fun and this game was no exception. This performance in particular is all the more impressive seeing as they had to contend with the absence of manager Joe Montemurro, who flew back to his native Australia for personal reasons, his duties being overseen by Leanne Hall and Aaron D’Antino, members of the coaching staff.
Arsenal certainly reeled out the changes for this one; only Vivianne Miedema and Jennifer Beattie remained from the team that beat Reading 3-0 in the league last weekend. Among those who came in were academy players Ruby Grant and Melisa Filis, as well as McCabe, who has recovered from a mix of injury and sickness. Louise Quinn captained the side with Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs being rested, and Under-21 Academy player Gracie Pearse made the bench for the first time. The game marked Beattie’s 100th appearance for The Gunners, a feat that she achieved across two spells with the club, the first beginning when she was just 18.
For London Bees, Lee Burch made two changes from the side that lost 2-0 to Sheffield United in the FA Women’s Championship last weekend, giving a first start of the season to academy product Mollie Dench, as ex-Arsenal academy player Amelia Hazard dropped out. Elsewhere Courtnay Ward-Chambers made her return to The Bees’ bench for the first time since suffering a head injury and got some crucial minutes on the pitch.
The game began with a surprise early chance for London Bees in just the first minute, as a headed ball from Lauren Pickett had to be collected by Arsenal goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. From then on Arsenal woke up, passing it around and creating chances with ease. Their breakthrough came early on in the 8th minute, a beautifully worked goal finished by McCabe. It was a long-awaited first goal of the season for McCabe, as she got on the end of Filis’ pass across the six yard box and poked the ball into the net.
It was another dominating display from Arsenal, who had chances coming from left, right and centre as they overwhelmed The Bees’ defence. This is not to say, however, that London Bees sat back and let Arsenal play their game unchallenged. They were not afraid to attack and give it ago throughout the first half, with chances from open play and set-pieces. Pickett was a bright spark throughout, running at Arsenal’s defence and testing Peyraud-Magnin multiple times.
Despite The Bees managing to keep their deficit to just one goal for the opening 30 minutes, in part due to some important work in goal from goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill, McCabe got hers, and Arsenal’s second in the 34th minute. This time she sent a rifling shot into the net from inside the box after some fantastic link-up play with Miedema.
Arsenal’s third came just before half-time, a first-ever Arsenal goal for academy star Filis, who side-footed the ball past Quantrill from close range following Miedema’s ball into the box. This marked the striker’s second assist of the game and meant Arsenal went into the break comfortably on top. The only downside to the half was a premature end to Beattie’s 100th Arsenal appearance, as an ankle knock forced her off early on.
It is a testament to Arsenal’s sheer attacking strength-in-depth that Hall and D’Antino felt able to bring world class striker Miedema off at half-time and provide her with a much needed rest, putting their trust in those left on the pitch, as well as Lisa Evans who came on to replace her.
That trust was repaid, and with interest, as the team notched a further six goals in the second half, the first of which came from none other than Evans herself, and with her first touch of the ball no less. It was substitute to substitute as Beth Mead, who replaced Viki Schnaderbeck for the second half, got the assist.
There was no doubt that Arsenal had picked up right where they left off in the first half, notching another goal, their fifth, two minutes later. The provider turned goalscorer as Beth Mead got one of her own, a close range effort from the left hand side following some good solo work from the winger.
As the half continued, The Gunners’ were in cruise control as The Bees began to tire. McCabe got her hat-trick soon after, with over half an hour still to play, and Arsenal didn’t stop there. Filis got a brace in the 77th minute and less than 10 minutes later she bundled the ball in from close range for her hat-trick, a remarkable feat that capped off a sublime performance on the wing from the teenager.
It was Evans who had the final word for Arsenal in the 88th minute, thundering the ball home to make it an emphatic 9-0. It was another truly special performance from The Gunners, and one which sent a deflated London Bees side, who did give their all, crashing out of the competition.
Arsenal travel to Everton in the FA Women’s Super League this weekend and The Blue Girls should be concerned about the number of goals being scored by The Gunners of late.