Manchester City toppled Arsenal on their own turf, coming away with a 2-1 win to put them firmly back in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title race and leaving The Gunners with a mountain to climb.
City’s attacking quality was centre stage as two stunning goals lifted them to within two points of Chelsea and Manchester United. It was a fixture that held great significance for both sides in the race for a top three spot, and indeed for the title, especially as news came in that both of the top two had succumbed to home defeats.
On a day of shocks and surprises in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, this fixture was as intense and closely-fought as you would expect from the two sides, with narrow margins determining the destination of the points, as it always does when these league stalwarts face off. The Citizens got the show on the road midway through the first half with a trademark striker’s goal from Ellen White but Arsenal found their response early in the second period after Caitlin Foord was left wide open on the left hand side. It looked like the points were set to be shared despite City’s late dominance as the ball landed everywhere but the back of the net but with 10 minutes to go, Chloe Kelly produced a bit of magic to set up Lauren Hemp, who fired the Gareth Taylor’s side to a decisive victory.
The Citizens certainly started off the better of the two sides which was far from a surprise given Arsenal’s almost month-long lay-off. Taylor’s side produced some lovely early passing moves, setting the tone and controlling the tempo. Their early pressure almost paid off when they forced a mistake from Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger but her loose pass hit White and bounced back out for another goal kick.
City completely dominated the early stages, finding joy down the wings through Hemp and Kelly and sending some dangerous balls into the box but despite some nervy defending at times, Arsenal were able to hold them off. However, in the 24th minute, just as The Gunners were starting to grow into the game themselves, City found their breakthrough. Unsurprisingly, it came from a great run down the wing from Kelly, the ex-Arsenal academy star teeing up White who caught the ball sweetly on the bounce, firing past a helpless Zinsberger to give The Citizens a deserved lead.
Arsenal did not let the deficit faze them as they hunted for a goal of their own. They almost found it too when in the 36th minute, Jill Roord poked the ball home after some great passing play between Foord and Beth Mead, however, the always excellent Sian Massey-Ellis raised her flag immediately as the goal was chalked off for offside.
That was the closest The Gunners came all half but the match was far from over as the second period begun. The opening stages were fairly even but soon enough, Arsenal found the space they needed and had the quality to finish it off as they secured the equaliser. Foord was the goalscorer, left totally free on the left-hand side. Roord had the vision to set her up and her Australian teammate made no mistake, neatly placing the ball beyond Ellie Roebuck to throw the game wide open once more.
The equaliser quickly injected some energy back into the game as both sides fought for a vital winner. City fans will have been left wondering if it simply was not their day as the ball somehow stayed out of the net time after time through some heroic last-ditch defending and goalkeeping from The Gunners.
However, City finally got the reward that their persistent pressure deserved. Made once again through a pinpoint cross from Player of the Match Kelly, it was finished with a fantastic diving header from Hemp, capping off an impressive attacking display from The Citizens and sealing an emphatic win.
Having lost their last four away fixtures to Arsenal, this was a major victory for City, one that may provide a springboard for the rest of their season whilst Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal side slip further away. With City now firmly back in the title race, it just goes to show what one crazy weekend in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League can do.