‘A night to remember in France for Arsenal’

by Andrew Crawshaw

The title of this piece is a quote from the commentators at the end of last night’s Women’s Champions League last 16 group game against Lyon.

You would have got my feeling from the match preview (2022-23 Womens Champions League – Lyon v Arsenal – the preview) that I really wasn’t expecting us to win the game and would have taken your hand off if offered a draw before kickoff.  You will also know by now that Arsenal absolutely trounced Lyon winning by five goals to one: an absolutely astonishing scoreline.

Lyon are the current French and Champions League Champions and at home are virtually invincible having only lost two of their previous 84 matches.  They possess the most star-studied lineup in Europe being described in a New York Times article as the ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ of women’s football.  The difference being whilst the Globetrotters basketball games were always stage managed, Lyon win theirs through being the better team on the pitch.

Both teams had injuries to key players going into this game.  We had our centre-back pairing of Leah Williamson (England Captain) and Rafaelle Souza (Brazil Captain) both out in the medium term along with Teyah Goldie with a long term ACL injury. 

Lyon have a longer list with Ada Hegeberg (Norwegian striker), Delphine Cascarino (French striker), Griedge Mbock (French defender), Ellie Carpenter (Australian defender), Catarina Macario (USA midfielder) and Sara Dabritz (Germany midfielder) all unavailable.  They were, however, still able to field a team where virtually everyone was a full international.

Arsenal starting 11

Manuella Zinsberger (GK); Matie McCabe, Steph Catley, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Laura Wienroither; Lia Wälti, Kim Little; Caitlin Foord, Frida Maanum, Beth Mead; Stina Blackstenius

The big surprise was Frida Maanum starting instead of Vivianne Miedema.  In his interviews, Jonas Eidevall explained that this was due to Frida’s greater running power as she was effectively given the task of marking two players as well as getting forward to support the attack.  Without doubt, she is a more physical player.

Lyon starting 11

Christine Endler (GK); Inės Jaurena, Wendie Renard, Alice Sombath, Selma Bacha; Amadine Henry, Daniëlle Van de Donk, Lindsey Horan; Janice Cayman, Eugénie Le Sommer, Mélvine Malard;

Inés Jaurena and Alice Sombath aren’t yet full internationals, the rest of the team are.

The game started with Arsenal on the front foot and looking for space behind the Lyon back line.  We had two shots on goal in the opening couple of minutes which seemed to disconcert Lyon, who were clearly not expecting that kind of opening salvo.  Spurred into action Lyon responded with pressure of their own which our defence coped with well.

In the 12th minute, Kim Little got the ball in midfield and played a fabulous pass for Beth Mead on the right flank and behind the Lyon back line.  Beth ran onto the ball, looked up and played a gorgeous pass across the Lyon penalty area which was met perfectly by Caitlin Foord.  A fabulous team goal and one nil to the Arsenal.

Again Lyon pressed us with more urgency but it wasn’t long before we extended our lead.  Another great through ball split the Lyon defence, Blackstenius took it on but her fierce shot was only parried by Endler and fell for Frida Maanum who was backing up.  Her effort into the far corner of the goal was unstoppable.  Two nil to the Arsenal, and I started to have a real belief that we could win the game.

Again Lyon responded with their most sustained pressure of the whole game.  They pinned us deep into our own half and won a series of corners which we struggled to clear properly.  From the last the ball went to the back post, a Lyon head met the ball which came back off the crossbar for Melvine Malard to bundle home from close range.  Three goals in the opening 27 minutes and end-to-end football.  It was some game.

Now it was our turn to weather the storm which we did, gradually restoring a degree of control and making it more difficult for Lyon to get into our final third.  We were having so much success that Lyon made a tactical substitution and swapped Damaris Egurrola for Inès Jaurena in the 37th minute.  At the end of the half, we won a free kick just outside the penalty area on the left-hand side.  Wendie Reynard was booked for her rash challenge.  Up stepped Beth mead with a fantastic strike into the bottom right corner and we went into the halftime break with a 3 – 1 lead.

In the second half, we made it quite clear that we weren’t going to let Lyon back into the game.  We pressed them relentlessly, time and time again forcing them into defensive errors.  in the 67th minute, this pressure paid off as Wendy Reynard played a poor cross-field pass about 25 yards from her goal.  It was an easy interception for Caitlin Foord who had no one anywhere near her.  She took a touch, looked up and struck a wonderful goal into the top right corner which left Endler just looking on in amazement.  This strike will take some beating in the October goal of the month competition; it was that good.

Two minutes later we wrapped things up and put a big bow on the parcel  Beth Mead this time picking up a defence-splitting pass and beating Endler to the left side of the goal.

In the final minute of added-on time Lyon had a shot which came back off the woodwork.  Even had it gone in it wouldn’t have mattered in the slightest.

A fabulous performance, all the more so for being somewhat unexpected.  We broke all kinds of records and showed just what we are capable of doing.  Now we just need to work out how to beat Barcelona later in the competition.

The Match highlights are available through this link, while the full match video is available here.


6 Replies to “‘A night to remember in France for Arsenal’”

  1. Thanks Andrew, great write up.

    The Guys are top of the PL and EL

    The Girls are = top of the WSL and WCL

    Heady days. I think I’m going to have to sit down.

  2. I was worried when they announced lineups and Miedema was on the bench, but the forward trio did a great job against a high line — well-timed runs, a couple of the offsides calls were after set-pieces or attacking moves that had already misfired, not breakaways.

    The double pivot of Walti and Little stayed compact and didn’t let the backup CB duo get targeted, Zinsberger is world-class, and good depth off the bench. Looking forward to the rest of the season!

  3. Well tonight’s game never reached the heights the Women did last night but it was as comfortable a one nil as I can remember in a while. We have now qualified from the group, just need a single point from the two remaining games to be assured of top place thereby missing the next round of games.

  4. Another enjoyable morning watching the football on TV.

    Spurs Women getting beaten 3 – 0, but more importantly Liverpool Men getting beaten 1 – 0 at Nottingham Forest.

    We face Forest at the Emirates next week and their tails will be up. Take nothing for granted

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