Resilient Gunners fight back in Germany – The Arsenal Women’s Journal


Sensational comeback 

They might miss key players across the field; they might concede two goals in the opening 30 minutes; they might face Germany’s top side, away from home yet they won’t back down. The resilience shown by this group of players is simply sensational.

Nothing is done yet in terms of reaching the Champions League final, but everything could have been over after 24’, when a misunderstanding between Rafaelle and Jen Beattie gifted Jónsdóttir of the easiest tap-in to double Wolfsburg lead, after the inevitable Pajor broke the deadlock six minutes earlier. To come home with a 2-2 draw in such difficult circumstances is a great result and a testament to the players’ belief and strong mentality.

Given the absences and overall conditions of the team, Jonas Eidevall had to go with a back-three of Rafaelle, Jen Beattie and Lotte Wubben-Moy, flanked by Noëlle Maritz on the right and Steph Catley on the left. The most intriguing aspect of the lineup was the setup between midfield and attack, where Stina Blackstenius was the pin around which everything revolved: Katie McCabe and Victoria Pelova, nominally our wingers, would often drift inside to create a square with Lia Wälti and Frida Maanum, slightly behind them, while the width was created by the wingbacks.

As much as I could see, the idea was to keep a very narrow shape and prevent Wolfsburg from going too easily through Oberdorf, their most influential player in the build-up phase, but it took some time to adjust to the setup and we almost paid the ultimate price while adapting to the 3-6-1 formation. Had Jónsdóttir’s header gone in, the game and the tie could have well been over before the hour mark, leaving our team with a lot to digest after the league defeat at Manchester United.

We must give credit to the players for not giving up after the second goal and for their willingness to stay loyal to the plan imagined by Jonas Eidevall. They slowly regained composure and control in the closing stages of the first half, got the all-important goal that opened up the game through Rafaelle and showed character and maturity when chasing the equalizer without being too exposed at the back. The pass from Lotte Wubben-Moy to Victoria Pelova was as beautiful as the Dutch in-to-out run to lose her marker and get into the penalty area, where Stina Blackstenius was waiting to roll the ball over the line.

Stina Blackstenius, Katie McCabe and Steph Catley celebrates the equalizer

Stina Blackstenius, Katie McCabe and Steph Catley celebrates the equalizer

Wolfsburg had the chance to go ahead with ten minutes to go, when former Gunner Jill Roord shot from inside the box but missed the target by a few inches, but the draw looked fair, given how we fought our way back into the game and contained the hosts.

Leah Williamson

Leah and others missed but …

Considering that we were missing Kim Little, Leah Williamson, Caitlin Foord, Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema, that Lia Wälti was playing with a gigantic bandage on her thigh and that Steph Catley wasn’t fully fit, getting home from the Volkswagen Arena with all to play for is the best we could hope, especially after going two goals down so early in the game.

The return leg will be played on May, 1st at the Emirates Stadium, and it will require another little miracle to book our place in the first Champions League final since 2007, since we won’t have any of the injured players back.

With no league games in between, Jonas Eidevall and the players will have a whole week to recover, freshen up, put together a tactical plan and work on its execution for what will be the biggest game of the season (yet) against a Wolfsburg team that will still be favorite, despite the home draw.

Arsenal supporters in Germany

Arsenal supporters in Germany

46’000 tickets have been sold already for the return leg, the hope is to see a full Emirates Stadium rocking on Monday night and pushing the girls over the line.

Let’s do this!

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