Women’s Champions League round of 16 Arsenal v Barcelona – Match Review

by Andrew Crawshaw

Firstly sorry this report wasn’t ready last night.  A 7pm kick-off should have left me plenty of time to get back to South London and write it but a track problem interrupted my journey home and I didn’t get in till well after 11 by which time I was too knackered.

The result of the match, as I am sure you are all aware, was a 4 – 0 win to Barcelona and another frustrating match as an Arsenal supporter.

Make no mistake this Barcelona team are fabulous and reminiscent of the Men’s team in full pomp.  They seemed bigger stronger and faster throughout the pitch than us.  Player for player they were at least our equals and, for the most part, better, with the probable exception of their goalkeeper who had so little to do that comparison wouldn’t be meaningful.  They also share the same propensity for being able to make niggly fouls with impunity.

Their lineup was :-

GK; Sandra Paños – 29 year old Spanish goalkeeper and Bacon D’Or nominee

Right Back; Marta Torrejón – 31 year old right back 171cm 62kg, received an early yellow card for totally wiping out Beth Mead from behind (a guaranteed Xhaka red card in the PL).  Was soundly good every time she touched the ball for the rest of the game.

Left Back; Fridolina Rolfö – 28 years old Swedish international 178cm 65kg.  Scored Barca’s third goal immediately before the break

Centre Back; Irene Paredes – 30 year old Spanish International 177 cm, 62kg.  Balon D’Or nominee

Centre Back; Andrea Pereira – 28 year old Spanish International 164cm, 62kg

Midfielder; Aitana Bonmati – 23 year old Spanish International 161cm, 51kg and scorer of Barca’s first goal

Midfielder; Alexia Putellas – 27 year old Spanish international, 175cm , 66kg.  Winner of the Balon D’Or, booked in the 30th minute for a cynical foul

Midfielder; Mariona Caldentey – 25 year old Spanish International 164cm, 61kg

Right forward; Ana-Maria Crnogorčević – 31 year old 175cm, 65kg Swiss international

Centre Forward; Jennifer Hermoso 31 year old Spanish International 174cm, 59kg scorer of the second and final goals.  Balon D’or Nominee

Left Forward; Like Martins – 28 year old Dutch International 170cm, 66kg.  Balon D’Or nominee

Our lineup was rather strange – Jen Beattie was partnered by Steph Catley as our two centre backs, Noelle Maritz and Katie McCabe at full backs.  Manuela Zinsberger kept her place in goal (she must bed a rest against Leicester on Sunday).  In Midfield there was the predicted start for Jordan Nobbs replacing Lia Walti and both Nikita Parris and Caitlin Foord were introduced to partner Beth Mead as our front three.  Viv Miedema starting on the bench.

We didn’t seem as afraid of Barcelona as we were in Spain although most of the play was in our defensive third.  We also prevented them from scoring for the first 22 minutes, again an improvement.  They did score in the 22nd minute when Aitana Bonmati ran past following an undercut pass from Jen Beattie Steph Catley who was caught out, possibly as a result of her being played out of position.  An unerring finish to the left hand side of the goal, Zinsberger no chance.  A sloppy goal to concede defensively – Barca are far too good a team for us to give them presents.

Their second came 7 minutes later from striker Hermoso an easy finish from a good cross.  It was three just before half time with the best goal of the night, an absolute belter from range by wing back Rolfo.

We were better in the second half but our final pass always seemed to be off, either too strong or too close to an opposition player.  To compete with Barcelona we needed to be perfect and all too often we weren’t.  The fourth goal was another poor one.  We failed to clear our line and Hermoso was able to bundle the ball over the line from about one yard.  She was lucky as it was a scuffed effort which only just crept in.

In the Barcelona goal, Paños had very little to do.  She watched an early effort from Nobbs fly just over the bar to land on the roof of the net early in the first half.  I’m sure that she had it covered and would have kept it out had it been a little lower though.  She came out of her area on a couple of occasions to act as sweeper to clear hopeful land through balls but once again we never managed to mount a credible attack with any kind of regularity.

Zinsberger was again very busy in our goal and made a number of great saves, a late double save at her near post preventing a fifth goal.

Viv came on without 25 minutes to play and was swamped by Barca players every time she got the ball.  The top teams seem to have worked out how to nullify her which is a bit worrying going forward.

In the other game in our group Hoffenheim were awarded two penalties enabling them to beat Køge two – one after Køge had taken an early lead.  That means that we need to avoid defeat against Hoffenheim next week by a five goal margin.

Once again our domestic fixture list has done us no favours with a game on Sunday at 18:45 before a 20:00 kick off in Germany on Wednesday evening.  We beat Hoffenheim at Borehamwood by four nil so we are still massive odds-on favourites to qualify as second in the group.

Next up a WSL fixture against bottom of the league Leicester at Borehamwood on Sunday 18:45 kickoff.  This one will be broadcast live on Sky Sports and worldwide on the FA Player.  It should give us a chance to remind ourselves and everyone else that we are still a bloody good team despite two rather disappointing results.

Finally here is the current WSL Table , another reminder that we are a great side, albeit one with work to de to become truly world class.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 8 7 1 0 26 3 23 22
2 Chelsea 8 7 0 1 27 5 22 21
3 Brighton 8 5 0 3 12 7 5 15
4 Spurs 8 4 2 2 9 6 3 14
5 West Ham 8 3 3 2 11 10 1 12
6 Man United 8 3 3 2 12 13 -1 12
7 Man City 8 3 1 4 16 16 0 10
8 Reading 8 3 1 4 12 12 -2 10
9 Everton 8 3 1 4 8 14 -6 10
10 Aston Villa 8 3 1 4 5 15 -10 10
11 Birmingham 8 0 1 7 2 21 -19 1
12 Leicester 8 0 0 8 3 19 -16 0