Manchester City Women suffered a major setback in their pursuit of the WSL title, losing 2-1 at Arsenal. Bunny Shaw’s fifth-minute goal looked to have set the blues on their way to victory, but an inspired second-half performance from the home side saw the blues lose their first WSL match since September.
Trailing United by three points, the blues needed to build on their 2-0 home victory over reigning champions Chelsea last weekend, which catapulted City into second place, level on points with their city rivals.
Victory over the injury-hit Gunners, who were missing two of their major stars in Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, would have confirmed City’s status as serious contenders for the title, as well as boosting their chances of finishing in the top three and qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
And it all looked so rosy when Shaw gave the blues the lead after just five minutes. Chloe Kelly’s cross from the right was met by the head of the Jamaican star, who expertly guided the ball over Sabrina D’Angelo and into the far corner.
City had the upper hand for most of the first half, snapping at the heels of the Arsenal players and picking up the loose balls where necessary. Shaw was denied by D’Angelo as she dispossessed the Arsenal defence and hit a vicious shot, was was parried out for a corner by the keeper.
However, they were susceptible to the occasional Arsenal counter-attack, and in the 25 minute, Ellie Roebuck was called into action to prevent such an attack. Caitlin Foord released Stina Blackstenius and Roebuck was quickly out to smother the ball and take a knock on the knee for her troubles.
However, the first signs of cracks in the City defence came in the 30th minute. Arsenal, who were enjoying their best spell of the half, poured forward and had three unmarked players in the penalty area. Thankfully, Frida Maanum was the one the ball fell to as she blazed he shot high, wide and handsome of the City goal.
City woke up a bit after that miss and had opportunities to make it 2-0 but failed to take them. Chloe Kelly’s excellent cross from the right found Lauren Hemp in acres of space, but the England winger hot a volley well over the bar when it was easier to score. Hemp had another chance, as did Kelly, but both were denied by excellent saves from D’Angelo.
But the second half belonged to the Gunners, and whatever Jonas Eidevall said to his side at half-time clearly worked, and the more Arsenal came into the game, the more City’s confidence dropped.
And that was evident in the 62ns minute as Arsenal drew level. City again left multiple Arsenal players unmarked, failed to clear their lines and were suitably punished as Maanum fired past Roebuck. It was a scrappy goal to concede, but no more than the Gunners deserved after an improved performance.
Kelly then fired wide at the Arsenal near post before the Gunners made some changes that swung the match more in the home side’s favour.
Maanum almost gave the Gunners the lead but was denied by a fingertip save from Roebuck, but it was a temporary reprieve as the home side took the lead in the 74th minute. McCabe took a short Arsenal corner on the right, then received the ball back before firing a left-foot shot that arrowed into the back of the goal. Roebuck got a hand to it, but there was too much on the shot and the City keeper could only parry it into the goal.
City tried to rally, and moments later, Laia Aleixandri’s wicked shot was tipped over by D’Angelo.
Manager Gareth Taylor finally made some changes with ten minutes to go, with Hayley Raso coming on, soon followed by Deyna Castellanos and Kerstin Casperij, with Mary Fowler following with six minutes remaining.
City won a free-kick on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area as the game crept into injury time. Steph Houghton’s set-piece hit the defender, who didn’t seem to know too much about it, before Houghton’s wild strike eventually fell at the feet of Bunny Shaw. But, with the goal at her mercy, the referee blew to allow Maanum to receive treatment, and Arsenal somehow got the ball back despite City being in possession at the time the whistle blew.
Six minutes of injury time turned into seven and, as the referee blew for full-time, City’s long unbeaten WSL run came to an end, with possibly their title hopes with it.
Final Score: Arsenal Women 2-1 Manchester City Women