It’s a thin line between success and failure but this team will fight on! – The AWFC Journal

Arsenal v VfL Wolfsburg: Semifinal 2nd Leg - UEFA Women's Champions League

Proud in defeat (Photo credit and thanks to Clive Rose/Getty Images)

I needed time to process the result from Monday night at the Emirates Stadium, because the emotions were too many and too high.
As I was sitting on the balcony at a friend’s house in Sevilla, my heart skipped a beat when Wolfsburg scored the final goal and crushed our dreams. All I felt was emptiness.

For once, I didn’t feel angry after a loss, which some might consider as a sign of maturity, but in reality I was lost for emotions – and words. This team, hit by another terrible injury, found the resources to fight back once again and bring the tie level after Wolfsburg took the lead, only to be floored by a sucker punch moments after hitting the bar during extra time.

Laura Wienroither on the floor after her knee injury

I felt it was very harsh.

Not the game itself, just the overall period. I thought this team deserved a nice reward for all the efforts they made and the bad luck they faced and a place in the Champions League final would have been perfect. Deserved and perfect. It was not meant to be, and I didn’t know how to digest that. It was one of those “look up in the sky” moments when you silently ask “why?” although you know you won’t get any answer.

It’s a little consolation that the sold-out Emirates Stadium could witness such a spectacular, intense game of football but at least this match will remain in the memory of many people for a very long time. Hopefully this special night will have sparked a few more fires and the players of tomorrow will tell how the Arsenal players inspired them to play the game. They will tell how Jen Beattie’s brave display persuaded them to follow in her footsteps; they will tell how Lia Wälti’s intelligence made them want to be the next midfield anchor, commanding the game from the middle of the park or they will tell you that Katie McCabe’s passion was so infectious that the very next day they started playing football.

It’s very hard to talk about the game itself, from a tactical or technical standpoint, because it felt like a “gut” affair from the first minute more than anything and the emotional side of the game was overshadowing any strategical sophistication but I was very impressed by Victoria Pelova’s ability to find her teammates’ runs as well as her work rate off the ball: I couldn’t not find any stats about the miles ran by each player but it felt like she ran twice as much as anyone else on the night.

The game had so many “sliding doors” moments and I wish at least one of those went our way: Jen Beattie’s goal should have been the fairy tale goal, very much like Paolo Maldini’s in the Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool, in Istanbul; Lina Hurtig, a sadly underwhelming signing so far, should have scored the winning goal to show the world what she’s capable of, when fit, and Katie McCabe’s effort should have gone in, instead of hitting the bar, because she’s the leader and soul of this team and deserved to write her name in the club’s history (a bit more, at least).

Jen Beattie celebrates her goal with her teammates

Jen Beattie celebrates her goal with her teammates (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The players and the staff wanted to win for all the injured teammates who could not be on the pitch, they wanted to give them all something to cheer while they recover from their season-ending injuries, but they couldn’t.

I won’t quote Giannis Antetokounmpo famous answer to a reporter but the line between success and failure is already thin enough to be drawn exclusively based on the scoresheet and I believe that this team left a mark on everyone who watched them play, regardless of the number of trophies that they are bringing home.
Their spirit, togetherness, behavior and solidarity were already enough to secure them a special place in the Arsenal folklore, even if the Super League and the Champions League slipped away.

To watch a group of women and players react with such bravery and assertiveness to the adversity they faced is equally unusual and impressive, so much that I don’t care about the loss at Manchester United of the cruel outcome of the semifinals against Wolfsburg. We were minutes away from getting to the Champions League final without five key players and we competed until the very end in the league, despite the absentees.

Imagine what we could do with a full team.

The next game will see Jonas Eidevall’s team facing a rejuvenated Leicester City that dragged themselves out of the bottom place. A win will help us stay in touch with the top three hence qualify for the Champions League, let’s see how the players pick themselves up after the European disappointment.

Based on what we saw recently, they will be up and fighting – once again.

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