Arsenal turn tables on Bayern to reach Women’s Champions League last four | Women’s Champions League3 min read
The performance was fluid, controlled and blistering as Arsenal booked a place in the Women’s Champions League semi-final for the first time in 10 years with a 2-0 defeat of the Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.
Two goals in seven minutes from Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius in the first half had the 21,307 fans rapt as the Gunners overturned a 1-0 first-leg deficit in style.
There is a real feelgood factor around Arsenal, one that well and truly surrounds the women’s team as much as the men’s. More than 20,000 tickets were sold before the game, far exceeding the 12,232 record for a midweek Women’s Champions League game in England and the atmosphere at a rain-drenched Emirates was passionate, loud and uplifting.
It would be needed. The Gunners looked good in the first leg despite Lea Schüller’s goal giving the German side the win but, despite hammering at the door for much of the second half, Bayern proved difficult to break down. It was a solidity familiar to teams that have played the German side this season. The Frauen Bundesliga leaders have conceded just four times in 16 league games, with a Georgia Stanway penalty at the weekend earning a 1-0 win over Wolfsburg to lift them above their fellow quarter-finalists to the league’s summit.
There was some bad news 11 minutes in, as influential midfielder and club captain Kim Little received lengthy treatment after being brought down by Sarah Zadrazil, before handing Leah Williamson the armband as she trudged off, at least on her feet and not on the waiting stretcher.
The response from the manager Jonas Eidevall was an immediate rejig, with centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy replacing Little and Williamson shifting forward into the middle.
Rather than send the Gunners spiralling, the uplift to their slight underdog status galvanised them. Birthday girl Williamson was central to the opener too, playing a neat backheel to Maanum which the Norwegian midfielder drilled into the top corner.
Bayern’s defence had finally been breached and Arsenal’s second, to put them ahead on aggregate, followed not long after. Katie McCabe raced to the byline and whipped the ball into the middle where Blackstenius was on hand to leap above Saki Kumagai and head powerfully home.
Arsenal went in at the break two goals up, but they should have been further ahead, Blackstenius and Maanum forcing saves from Maria Luisa Grohs in quick succession and Wubben-Moy sending a searching cross off the crossbar from distance.
With Bayern behind and needing to go in search of a goal, Arsenal were being given more and more room to operate in the final third. It could perhaps be suggested that the Gunners benefited from a comprehensive and straightforward 5-1 defeat of Tottenham at the weekend while Bayern battled with their title rivals, but that would do a disservice to Arsenal’s performance in the away leg. Eidevall had said prior to kick-off that Arsenal needed “to master all aspects of the game” and in London they had found the missing piece of the puzzle: goals.
There had been only one change apiece from last week’s starting lineups, with Victoria Pelova, who assisted both Caitlin Foord goals against Tottenham on Saturday, on in place of Laura Wienroither and Franziska Kett coming in for Sydney Lohmann, which manager Alexander Straus said was somewhat enforced.
Arsenal began the second half with their tails up. Pelova glided into the box but her touch let her down and the chance vanished, but the momentum was still firmly with the home side.
Bayern weren’t totally without chances, but they were few and far between. Just past the hour mark Lina Magull got her head to a Klara Bühl corner but Rafaelle Souza got a touch on it to turn it behind for another corner. The first German substitute came not long after, with Jovana Damnjanovic replacing Kett and running on to the pitch clutching a note for her teammates.
The best chance of the half would go to the home team who, at each sniff of a shift in momentum, bit back. Maanum’s backheel found Foord in acres of space on the left but the Australian forward sent her effort sailing high over the bar.
It was still agonisingly tense, with the one-goal margin keeping the crowd energetic till the last moment. A clash of feet between McCabe and Emelyne Laurent left the Republic of Ireland captain hopping off the pitch after a long spell down and seven minutes of added time at the end only added to the nervy feel but the Gunners clawed over the line to book their semi-final berth.
Eidevall’s team will play the winners of Thursday night’s clash between Wolfsburg and Paris Saint-Germain, with the German side 1-0 up.
Meanwhile, Chelsea welcome UWCL holders Lyon to Stamford Bridge tomorrow with a semi-final against Barcelona awaiting them, following the Spanish side’s 5-1 defeat of Roma.