It’s not just the men’s camp that is happy with their crucial recent wins. After a battling 1-1 versus Notts County in the opener of the Women’s Super League, Shelley Kerr’s team seem to be settling down and finding their rhythm as they turned their attention towards the domestic cup competitions.
Arsenal Ladies had to face Watford in the Continental Cup on May 1, followed by an FA Cup quarterfinal fixture against Birmingham City Ladies on May 4. With wins in both fixtures, Arsenal look in good, steady form. It also means that the Gunners’ defence of both cups has started off on the right foot.
This year is the first year of the newly structured Continental Cup and the Watford game was Arsenal’s first group game of four in total – they also have to play Reading, Chelsea and Millwall, and only the group winners are guaranteed to progress to the knock-out stages.
Home at Meadow Park, Arsenal were unlucky not to score in a first half where they dominated possession and had some great chances (some which they missed, and some which were well-saved by Watford’s Lauren Davey). Dutch defender Anouk Hoogendijk had her first Arsenal start, while youngsters Jade Bailey and Caroline Weir started in place of Rachel Yankey and Christie Murray – three changes from the team that had faced Notts County.
Veteran forward Kelly Smith was unlucky to go off with an injury in the 27th minute, replaced by eventual goal-scorer, Freda Ayisi. The second half started in the same vein as Arsenal continued to attack, get into good positions and create goal-scoring chances. It was an all-Japanese effort that finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. Yukari Kinga’s pass found Shinobo Ohno and the forward took one touch before firing past Davey for her first goal for the club. In the 76th minute, Freda Ayisi doubled the advantage pouncing on a loose ball when Rachel Yankey’s shot was only half-cleared by the Watford defence. A few minutes from time, Alex Scott scored from a header for her second goal in as many games to make it a comprehensive 3-0 victory fitting Arsenal’s overall domination.
There was no time to celebrate or rest on their laurels as a trip to Solihull Moors awaited them in the FA Cup. After being knocked out of the Champions League a few weeks ago by the Birmingham City Ladies, Arsenal were all geared up to make amends. And yet, it was the home team who took the advantage and went a goal ahead on the half hour mark, when Remi Allen headed home from six yards out. However, the visitors got an immediate chance to equalise in the 39th minute when Arsenal was awarded a penalty. Kelly Smith (back from injury) made no mistake and sent the Birmingham City keeper the wrong way. Freda Ayisi scored her second goal in 3 days when she coolly slotted home the winner past Spencer in the 54th minute following a perfect through-ball by Danielle Carter.
It was a deserved comeback for the Gunners, who will face Chelsea Ladies in the semi-finals on Sunday, May 11 at Woking (2pm KO).
There was more good news as Jordan Nobbs, Danielle Carter and Siobhan Chamberlain were all named in the Team of the Year at Sunday’s PFA awards. Nobbs and Carter were second and third respectively in their Women’s Young Player of the Year category. (Liverpool’s Martha Harris was the winner.) Siobhan Chamberlain, who arrived at Arsenal only in the winter, following a great showing for Bristol Academy, came third in the Player of the Year award which was won by Lucy Bronze from Matt Beard’s Liverpool.
Rachel Yankey also received her OBE in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace last Thursday. The honour had been announced back in December 2013 for the player’s tireless work in promoting the women’s game at the youth level. (She has previously received an MBE back in 2005.)
The Gunners Town team would like to congratulate the Arsenal players for their awards and contributions, and hope that they can continue to reach greater heights.
Before I sign off for the week, here is the link where you can do your online bookings for Arsenal’s WSL fixtures. Our first home game will be on Sunday, May 18 versus new entrants Man City, followed by two matches in a week against Birmingham City on May 21 and Bristol Academy on May 25.
Stay safe and keep sane, Gooners!
Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.