Two late goals from the Arsenal sees the Emirates rock
Aston Villa held Arsenal right to the end but couldn't do enough to stop the Gunners two late efforts
Arsenal FC Women
15 October 2023
35,829 people were in attendance at a battery cold yet sunny Emirates Stadium as Arsenal competed a stunning turn around with two injury time goals from Katie McCabe and Alessia Russo to wipe out a Maz Pacheco header in the first half to give The Gunners their first win of the season.
Arsenals Jonas Eidevall named a side with five changes to the one that got a last gasp draw with Manchester United last weekend. Manuela Zinsberger returned in goal and there were starts for Lotte Wubben-Moy, Katie McCabe, Caitlin Foord and Frida Maanum. Perhaps the biggest news however, was the return of Beth Mead to a match day squad, taking her place on the bench for the first time in over a year after her injury hell.
For Villa, Carla Ward made three changes from the team that lost to Liverpool, bringing in Maz Pacheco, Laura Blindkilde and Simone Magill from the start, in place of Adriana Leon, Alisha Lehmann and Jordan Nobbs.
A fresh anticipation gripped the North London air with both sides awaiting their first win of the campaign. Arsenal got the game underway and had the first goalbound effort of the match, after some neat interplay between Katie McCabe and Kim Little saw the former’s low effort roll towards Daphne van Domselaar with it being an easy collection for the Dutch keeper.
Kim Little and Lia Walti in Arsenal’s engine room were patrolling the middle of the park well and not allowing their Villa counterparts. Lucy Parker and Lucy Staniforth any room. Some high pressing from The Gunners saw the ball worked its way out to Caitlin Foord on the left, who’s low effort was deflected on it’s path to goal, forcing van Domselaar into a brilliant low save, which Maz Pacheco was then on hand to clear. The Gunners continued to pepper the Villa goal early on but two Katie McCabe efforts were well blocked and seen out well by the visitors.
Bellowing home shouts for a penalty followed from a short Arsenal corner when Simone Magill challenged Katie McCabe in the area, but replays showed Magill took all of the ball with a brilliant tackle on the Arsenal Number 15.
A huge miscommunication in the Arsenal backline saw Kim Little smash a ball out for a corner when it seemed Manu Zinsberger had all to herself and Aston Villa took full advantage. Maz Pacheco steamed in to connect beautifully with a Lucy Staniforth corner to power a header past the helpless Zinsberger and give The Villans the lead with their first effort on goal of any kind in the game to stun The Emirates into silence as Arsenal conceded from a set piece again. Villa went in search of a quiockfire second as Lucy Parker set up Rachel Daly, but the former’s effort was blocked well by Amanda Ilestedt, redeeming herself from letting Pachecho free to open the scoring moments later. The moment was even sweeter for the Villa left back, her first goal since 2016 and her first ever in the WSL.
Arsenal responded well with Frida Maanum nipping infrtont of the Villa defender at the near post but her effort didn’t trouble Van Domselaar in the Villa goal. Russo had been kept well quiet by the home defence but spun away from her marker with her left footed cross almost catching Van Domselaar out, but the Dutch stopper was alert to the danger.
Some desperate defending from Villa was needed to preserve their lead as we ticked towards half time, with Lia Walti nodding a deep free kick back across goal with Amanda Ilesdet waiting seemingly for a tap in, Rachel Daly steamed in and took the ball off the toes of the waiting Swede who seemed destined to prod home her first Gunners goal.
Some really strong running from Frida Maanum, showing the Norwegian had shaken off the earlier head injury following a clash with the Villa goalscorer Pacheco, saw her shot had all the sting taken out of by a Villa body and become an easy collect for Van Domselaar.
Half Time - Arsenal 0-1 Villa
The Gunners pretty much started the second half like they started the first, controlling possession but not creating anything in the realms of clear cut. Russo unleashed a fierce goal bound effort that struck Rachel Corsie in the face leading to the referee stopping the game to administer treatment to the stricken Scot who was gladly back on her feet moments later.
Simone Magill continued to have an impact on proceedings at both ends of the pitch, putting g in a brilliant last ditch challenge to block an Alessia Russo goal bound effort from inside the area.
As the game tickled over into it’s last half hour, movement was aplenty on the Arsenal bench with Jonas Eidevall rolling the dice by introducing the hero from the draw at United, Cloe Lacasse and Victoria Pelova in place of Frida Maanum and Amanda Ilestedt.
In the 65th minute, some way, somehow Arsenal didn’t level the scores, a brilliant turn by Caitlin Foord saw her left footed effort fly across the keeper and smash back off the post to the waiting Alessia Russo who seemed for all the world like she was going to tap in her first WSL goal for the Gunners, but some desperate defending from Aston Villa allowed their lines to be cleared and somehow, the ‘nil’ mark on the Arsenal side of the scoreboard to stay.
Everything the Gunners were trying, cross wise were just being plucked out the air by the imperious Daphne van Domselaar who was coming to collect, Marshall and clear almost every ball that went into the Arsenal box.
The tactical reshuffle that was required when Lacasse and Pevlova came on allowed Kim Little to occupy a pocket further upfield behind Russo and become that link that seemingly Arsenal had been lacking prior into the feet of Russo and and Foord.
Villa then hit their first throw of the dice, Carla Ward bringing on Gunners legend, Jordan Nobbs in place of the very impressive Simone Magill.
Every bounce seemed to be going Villa’s way which was epitomised a the game entered its final quarter, some. Brilliant closing down by Alessia Russo looked for all the world like it was going to loop into the path of Little, but low and behold there was a Vil;a shirt there read to clear the danger. Jonas Eidevall then rolled the dice once more, bringing off a central midfielder in Lia Walti and introducing forward, Stina Blackstenius for the final quarter.
Another turn of penalty box pinball infant of the Clock End saw Katie McCabe’s effort well blocked and out for an corner which was eventually worked back in towards the taker Steph Catley, who’d taken up a brilliant position in the area, but the Arsenal Number 7’s header bounced wide of the post.
Aston Villa looked to sure up proceedings, bringing on Ebony Salmon and Olivia McLaughlin coming on in place of goalscorer Maz Pacheco and Laura Blindkilde-Brown. Eidevall then threw his fairytale switch on, introducing Beth Mead for her first WSL appearance since November last year with four minutes to go at one down, you can probably tell what everyone with an Arsenal persuasion inside the Emirates wanted to happen.
As the board went up for twelve added minutes, a huge roar around The Emirates went for the Arsenal players which seemed to work an absolute treat, Katie McCabe drove forward with intent, got the ball back on the run and smashed the ball into the roof of the net infront of The Clock End to bring Arsenal level.
Late drama was clearly the order of the day as Stina Blackstenius was sent racing away with her effort bouncing back off the post. Arsenal tails were up and they wanted more. Beth Mead slipped the ball to Alessia Russo on the edge of the box and the latters low effort squirmed past Van Domselaar to take the roof off of The Emirates and give Arsenal the lead when they looked dead and buried.
Carla Ward sent on Adrianna Leon and Alisha Lehmann to try and steal back a point for the crestfallen Villa players, Arsenal were denied a late third however with the ball falling to Stina Blackstenius after being picked out Foord, but a brilliant goal-line block from a Villa defender to prevent the hosts from making it three.
That was the final action of a game that had everything, Beth Mead registering an assist on her return to allow Alessia Russo to score an injury time winner which gifts Arsenal their first win of the season.
Full Time - Arsenal 2-1 Aston Villa
Arsenal - Katie McCabe 90+2, Alessia Russo 90+4’
Aston Villa - Maz Pacheco 27’