Match Report

FA Cup Semi-Final: Arsenal v Brighton

Arsenal clinch a convincing 3-0 win over Brighton and progress to the FA Cup final to take on Chelsea.

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Girls on the Ball

5 November 2021

As has become their adopted style under Jonas Eidevall, Arsenal kicked off the semi-final with high intensity and high press, immediately punching home positional fluidity and thrusting balls cross field to catch the visitors off guard. Yet, a resolutely defensive Brighton held firm in the first half denying the hosts at every turn.

Relentless attempts from the Gunners front line, made up of Beth Mead, Nikita Parris and Caitlin Foord, successively threatened to break the deadlock. Foord’s chance at the 20-minute mark in particular, proved frustrating for Arsenal as an open goal was missed after the ball ricocheted from beneath Brighton defender and captain Victoria Williams’ feet.

The next near-miss, and possibly Arsenal’s best chance of the first half, came 37 minutes in as Parris managed to get a head to Mead’s rebounded shot. Goalkeeper Megan Walsh managed to force Mead’s strike back into the box only for it fall to Parris. Parris nodded a strong ball toward goal that was subsequently cleared off the line by Williams.

It was noted in the first half that the Seagull’s slipped into a 4-5-1 formation in an effort to resist Arsenal’s press whilst retaining a forward option to play to in transition. This system proved effective against Arsenal’s 4-3-3 and allowed Brighton moments on the break. Centre forward Danielle Carter took an encouraging run early on, racing toward goal before being cut out by Jen Beattie.

After Williams’ goal-line clearance, Brighton seized the opportunity to counter the now out of shape Arsenal. Once again, it was Carter driving the attack as the Seagulls flooded forward. The striker was able to navigate space in the box to clip in a shot, yet Arsenal were able to avert the danger.

The Gunners drove one last hurrah before the half time whistle when Mead and Foord rushed on to a long ball. Both used their pace to steam past Brighton’s back line, yet a watchful Walsh opted to meet them head on and collected her ball without hesitation.

The opening goal came just four minutes into the second half after a slight tactical amendment to the Arsenal. The Gunners 4-3-3 remained; however, one midfielder pushed slightly higher, occupying the breadth of space behind the front three. Captain Kim Little filled this role of central nucleus, pivoting quick one-two-balls with the forward line.

Stand-in left-back Katie McCabe acted as the third point in a triangle alongside Mead and Little, and the three worked in tandem to create the first goal. At 49 minutes, the opener was manifested from McCabe’s fine touch. McCabe passed to Mead who, with a shift of direction, cut around Megan Connolly and dinked it across to Little. As ever, the captain made no mistake and tipped the ball over the head of Walsh, putting the hosts one ahead.

At 54 minutes Arsenal scored their second goal in a similar fashion to the first. Little passed the ball to Mead in their own half and the winger progressed forward 15 yards without much resistance. Mead squared it to Jordan Nobbs and continued her run. Nobbs threaded the ball back to Mead, who was now drifting inward, unmarked, on the edge of the box. Mead eyed up the angle before releasing the shot on her right foot, sending the ball into the bottom right corner.

Firmly in the driving seat now, the Gunners third goal came with just under ten minutes to go when defender Leah Williamson sent in a signature bullet header from a corner to seal the deal.

A valiant game was played by the Seagulls and definite moments of threat came from counters in both halves and some promising goalkeeping was displayed, yet Arsenal’s intense pressure ultimately proved too much to handle.

Arsenal will face Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 5th December.

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Arsenal: Manuela Zinsberger, Noelle Maritz (82’), Leah Williamson (90+1’), Jen Beattie (82’), Katie McCabe, Lia Wälti (64’), Kim Little (c), Jordan Nobbs, Nikita Parris, Caitlin Foord (64’), Beth Mead

Substitutes: Lydia Williams (GK), Hermione Cull (GK), Teyah Goldie (90+1’), Anna Patten (82’), Simone Boye (82’), Mana Iwabuchi (64’), Frida Maanum (64’), Halle Houssein, Alex Hennessy

Goals: Kim Little (49’), Beth Mead (54’), Leah Williamson (76’)

Brighton and Hove Albion: Megan Walsh, Fliss Gibbons, Victoria Williams (62’) (c), Danique Kerkdijk, Maya Le Tissier, Aileen Whelan, Megan Connolly, Inessa Kaagman (78’), Kayleigh Green (50’), Danielle Carter, Emily Simpkins (50’)

Substitutes: Frankie Angel (GK), Emma Koivisto (50’), Lee Geum-min (50’), Rinsola Babajide, Libby Bance, Ellie Brazil (62’), Katie Robinson, Maisie Symonds (78’)