UWCL: Arsenal v Ajax
Arsenal draw 2-2 with Ajaz in first leg of Champions League second round
22 September 2022
Arsenal and Ajax played out a 2-2 draw in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Round 2 1st leg. Ajax took the lead through Romee Leuchter but Stina Blackstenius quickly equalised for Arsenal. The hosts hit the post twice early in the second half before taking the lead when Kim Little scored from the penalty spot. Leuchter scored her second seven minutes from the end to equalise for Ajax. Arsenal had a late goal disallowed for offside.
Arsenal made three changes from their starting eleven that had beaten Brighton in the WSL with Steph Catley, Noelle Maritz and Lina Hurtig came in for Katie McCabe, Laura Wienroither and Caitlin Foord. Lia Walti made her 100th appearance for the club. Ajax included three of the Netherlands Euro 2022 squad in their starting line-up. Those being Sherida Spitse, Victoria Pelova and Leuchter.
Ajax had the fist chance of the game in the 5th minute when Pelova saw her shot saved by Manuela Zinsberger. Ajax were pressing Arsenal, causing them to make mistakes and passes not finding targets. Ajax were also defending well in the early stages. The visitors had another attempt in the 16th minute but Spitse saw her long range shot easily caught.
Ajax did take the lead two minutes later when Chasity Grant sent in a low cross from the right and Leuchter finished from close range.
Arsenal had their first chances in the 21st minute but Beth Mead saw her free kick saved and Blackstenius put the rebound wide.
The hosts equalised two minutes later. Mead swung in a corner which Rafaelle headed against the crossbar with the rebound falling to Blackstenius who finished.
Ajax created the next chance in the 27th minute when Ashleigh Weerden just couldn’t get onto a cross at the far post. Seconds later, Leuchter saw her poked effort saved.
The visitors almost caused themselves problems in defence in the 32nd minute but nothing came of it. Arsenal had an opportunity in the 42nd minute but Vivianne Miedema couldn’t get the ball under control and shot wide. Ajax had the final chance of the half when Zinsberger saved Leuchter’s powerful effort from close range.
Arsenal came out like a different side after the break, playing some excellent football for the first 15 minutes or so of the second half. Leah Williamson played a lovely ball through to Catley in the 47th minute but she saw her shot hit the post and bounce away. Miedema had the next attempt at goal two minutes later when she cut in but shot wide.
Blackstenius saw her low shot from 25-yards saved by Lize Kop. Walti played the ball through to Hurtig but before she could get an effort at goal an Ajax defender got back to put the ball behind for a corner. Maritz dangerous cross was pushed away by Kop.
In the 54th minute, Rafaelle cut back and sent a shot against the post. Kop then smothered the ball as Blackstenius tried to go past her.
A minute later, Arsenal were awarded a penalty when Mead was fouled in the area. Kim Little stepped up and sent the spot kick low into the net to give The Gunners a deserved lead after their start to the second half.
Ajax’s first effort of the half came in the 59th minute but Grant sent a shot high and wide.
Arsenal continued to create chances but not at the same rate as earlier in the half. Williamson saw a shot from 35-yards go wide and Mead sent a free kick from the edge of the area over. In the 71st minute, Miedema was unable to control the ball then substitute Foord saw an effort blocked.
Some of the passes that had been working for the visitors in the first half, weren’t working in the second. Catley was through for Arsenal in the 75th minute but Kop got to the ball first and blocked.
In the 83rd minute, against the run of play of the majority of the second half, Ajax equalised. Tiny Hoekstra skipped past a defender and sent in a low cross that was poorly defended by Arsenal with the ball reaching Leuchter who scored her second from close range.
Leuchter attempted a long-range effort four minutes later but it went wide.
Arsenal did have the ball in the net again in the 89th minute but McCabe’s powerful shot into the net was disallowed for offside. In injury time, Little run into the box but her effort was blocked. Rafaelle had the final chance of the game but saw her effort go wide after a corner had been headed on.
Ajax looked the happier side with the result as the final whistle went. The second leg takes place in Amsterdam next Wednesday. Before that, Arsenal take on Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday for which over 50,000 tickets have been sold!
Arsenal: Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Rafaelle, Catley, Walti, Little, Miedema, Mead, Blackstenius (McCabe 74’), Hurtig (Foord 58’)
Unused substitutes: Marckese, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Noobs, Maanum, Wienroither, Agyemang, Earl, Reid
Goals – Blackstenius 23’, Little (pen) 57’
Ajax: Kop, Van der Most, Kardinaal, Doorn, Verhoeve, Noordam, Spitse, Pelova, Grant (Bakker 90’+2’), Leuchter, Weerden (Hoekstra 62’)
Unused substitutes: Bussman, Van der Wal, Munsterman, Tromp, Kruize, Keijzer, Van Gool, Sabajo
Goals – Leuchter 18’, 83’
Booked – Verhoeve 56’, Van der Moost 64’, Doorn 69’
Referee – Frida Nielsen (Denmark)
Attendance – 2,550