by Andrew Crawshaw
Arsenal Women hosted Birmingham in the quarter-final of the Continental Tyres Cup last night at a very cold Meadow Park. Joe Montemurro rotated his squad to a degree with the Club having three important games in a week. Our starting 11 was
Sari van Veenendaal
Katie McCabe, Jannni Arnth, Louise Quinn, Dominique Bloodworth
Kim Little (cap), Lia Walti, Danielle van de Donk
Katerine Veje (Club Debut), Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead
A first start on the wing for Katerine Veje following her transfer in from Montpellier, partnering Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead up front and Kim Little starting her second consecutive match as she looks to build full match fitness following her return from the broken leg she got when scissor tackled from behind by Drew Spence in our five nil demolition of Chelsea earlier in the season.
Birmingham are always an difficult team to play against, they are coached to get very tight to attacking players to try and disrupt the attacking team’s flow. Frequently they seem to add a nudge or two to make the attacking player think more about their balance than their first touch of the ball. That tactic certainly worked for them last night as our first touch was generally very poor. At times the referee allowed Birmingham too much leeway as there were a number of occasions when our player ended up on the ground with the ball with Birmingham. In my opinion fouls which should have been called and weren’t.
Very little happened in the first 15 minutes, neither team able to present much of an attacking threat. Miedema looked off the pace as though she was carrying some kind of a knock. It looked as though she might have had some strapping on her thigh but my eyes could have been deceiving me. Rather like on Sunday against West Ham she was just not herself. Our best chance fell to debutant Katrine Veje but her shot went wide.
The first key moment of the game was in the 19th minute when Birmingham were awarded a penalty as Danielle Van de Donk caught Lucy Quinn in the penalty area. Aoife Mannion’s shot was powerful and aimed for the left corner but Sari was equal to it and tipped it past the post for a corner. At 30 minutes we hadn’t registered a shot on target.
The first half finished much as the rest of the half had passed with very little happening. We registered our first shot on target thanks to Danielle van de Donk in the 44th minute but it was straight at Hannah Hampton in the Birmingham goal and presented her with an easy catch.
Joe must have read the riot act to the players at half time because we started the second half far more purposefully than we ended the first half. The early pressure failed to produce any clear cut chances as Birmingham always had players between us and their goal. At the same time they were failing to apply any pressure on our goal.
In the 64th minute out of nothing Birmingham scored as a mix-up between Dominique Bloodworth and Sari van Veenendaal enabled Lucy Quinn to lob the ball into the empty net.
At this point we were ‘huffing and puffing’ but not looking likely to get a goal. We brought on Lisa Evans for the tiring Katrine Veje in the 66th minute and Leah Williamson for Dominique Bloodworth in the 78th minute but it still looked like we were being knocked out.
In the 84th minute though Vivianne Miedema came to life and produced a fine lofted ball into the centre of the Birmingham goal. Danielle van de Donk made no mistake with her header and we were level. Birminghav visibly sagged and suddenly we were on top and looking for a dramatic late winner. The fourth official indicated there would be 3 minutes of added time and we pressed again. A through ball found Miedema who suddenly showed why she is one of the best strikers in Women’s football. She took the ball at pace, rounded the onrushing Hampton and calmly passed the ball into the empty Birmingham net and we had completed our smash and grab.
This was a game where with 6 minutes to go we were down and out. Miedema had virtually been a passenger all game but then suddenly came to life.
In the other quarter finals Championship team Man United beat West Ham by three nil and Chelsea overcame Reading by four nil. Man City play Brighton in a 19:00 kickoff on Thursday evening.
Our next game is on Sunday when we play Chelsea at Borehamwood in another 12:30 kickoff. The game is being televised in the UK by BT Sport so may well be more widely available.
If you can get to Borehamwood to support the team live, I would recommend that you do. Tickets are available online via Arsenal.com and will also be available on the gate. The atmosphere will be buzzing and the in ground Lunch Box outlets do a good range of food and drink.
A win for Arsenal will almost guarantee European football next year as we will have opened up an eight point gap (plus a game in hand) with only 9 games to play.
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