Arsenal are into the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League for the first time in 10 years thanks to a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Gunners had first half goals from Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius, as well as a monstrous collective effort over the 90 minutes, to thank for overturning a 1-0 aggregate deficit from the first leg.
Earning her place in the starting XI from the north London derby, Victoria Pelova was at the heart of an early goalmouth scramble that Bayern just about managed to hack clear. But the Gunners soon received a potentially enormous blow when Kim Little hobbled off the pitch moments later, seemingly suffering from an awkward fall after trying to ride a reckless tackle.
But as she so often has done, Maanum stood up to be counted. Notwithstanding the loss of their skipper, the Gunners were the better side in the early stages and Maanum’s glorious opener – lashing the ball into the top corner after a sharp one-touch move – was exactly with the run of play.
Only the sharp reactions of goalkeeper Maria Grohs stopped the Gunners doubling that lead midway through the first half, with Pelova racing towards a loose back pass from Maximiliane Rall and getting there just after the Bayern stopper cleared it.
They didn’t keep Arsenal out for long, though. Katie McCabe had the awareness to keep an overhit cross alive, whipping it back into the penalty area where Blackstenius was waiting to head in. There was even an element of Bayern clinging on by the time the interval came, with Grohs making close-range saves in quick succession from Maanum and Blackstenius, and moments later another outstanding save from Grohs from a Blackstenius header.
As Bayern struggled to get going, Arsenal continued that intensity when the teams returned and Maanum might have hit a killer blow but for her fierce strike catching Glodis Viggosdottir plumb on the chin and knocking the Icelandic defender clean off her feet.
An hour had been played before Bayern got remotely close to landing a glove on Arsenal. The chance belonged to winger Klara Buhl, skipping inside from the right but finding Lotte Wubben-Moy firmly in the way of her shot. It was a warning sign for Arsenal, but they responded when McCabe waltzed through the away defence but her shot was deflected wide by Grohs.
Bayern were starting to come more into the game but Arsenal kept making chances and had the opportunity to put the tie to bed when Caitlin Foord inexplicably fired over the top when in acres of space and only Grohs to beat.
Late substitutions from both sides disrupted the rhythm of the game, probably more to Arsenal’s benefit. Into seven minutes of stoppage time, the Gunners were determined to weather a growing storm – even Grohs went up for a late corner – but an ultimately disappointing Bayern found no way through.
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Would have expected to be busier. Her biggest contribution was a convenient injury break for treatment midway through the second half.
RB: Noelle Maritz – 7/10 – Took a yellow card for gamesmanship in the second half.
CB: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Moved into midfield when Little went off an recorded an excellently cheeky backheel assist for Maanum. Gave her team more defensive solidity.
CB: Rafaelle – 7/10 – Didn’t face too much of a direct threat.
LB: Katie McCabe – 8/10 – Played with good energy that allowed her to get forward and pin Bayern back. Assisted the vital second goal with a great cross.
CM: Frida Maanum – 9/10 – Another exceptional Champions League night for the Norwegian. Scored a superb goal and was involved in everything good that Arsenal did.
CM: Kim Little (c) – N/A – Forced off inside 12 minutes due to injury after an awkward fall.
CM: Lia Walti – 7/10 – Gave a super disciplined performance in the middle of the pitch.
RW: Victoria Pelova – 7/10 – Tried to make things happen right from the start and was involved in several early moves. Worked hard off the ball too.
ST: Stina Blackstenius – 8/10 – Continued her excellent recent form by finding the net and making herself a real problem for Bayern to deal with.
LW: Caitlin Foord – 5/10 – Worked hard out of possession but hadn’t been involved as much as her teammates until squandering a second half chance to seal the tie.
SUB: Lotte Wubben-Moy (12′ for Little) – 7/10
SUB: Laura Wienroither (77′ for Pelova) – 6/10
SUB: Lina Hurtig (89′ for McCabe) – N/A
SUB: Jen Beattie (89′ for Blackstenius) – N/A
Jonas Eidevall – 9/10 – His team were clealry fired up and the decision to reshuffle slightly when Little was forced off was proven to the right one.
GK: Maria Grohs – 8/10 – Kept Bayern competitive in the tie with a string of important saves.
RB: Maximiliane Rall – 5/10 – Guilty of a slack pass that almost gifted Arsenal another first half goal
CB: Glodis Perla Viggosdottir – 6/10 – Shook off a blow to the face when she blocked a fierce shot.
CB: Saki Kumagai – 6/10 – Lost Blackstenius in the six-yard box for Arsenal’s second. Some big late tackles on Blackstenius and Maanum were vital to keep Bayern alive.
LB: Tuva Hansen – 6/10 – A little wasteful in possession and found it difficult against Pelova. Made a crucial tackle on Foord in the closing stages.
CM: Sarah Zadrazil – 5/10 – Her early tackle was what forced Little out of the game.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 5/10 – Saw plenty of the ball but didn’t do enough to make an impact.
CM: Lina Magull (c) – 6/10 – Began to exert a little more influence in the final quarter.
RW: Klara Buhl – 6/10 – A quiet first hour but then looked to be Bayern player most likely to do something later on.
ST: Lea Schuller – 5/10 – Starved of service and hardly touched the ball.
LW: Franziska Kett – 5/10 – A challengning night for the 18-year-old. Safe with possession yet unable to match Arsenal’s intensity while she was on the pitch.
SUB: Jovana Damnjanovic (64′ for Kett) – 5/10
SUB: Sydney Lohmann (80′ for Zadrazil) – 5/10
SUB: Emelyne Laurent (80′ for Rall) – 6/10
SUB: Ivana Rudelic (88′ for Magull) – N/A
SUB: Karolina Lea Vilhjalmsdottir (88′ for Schuller) – N/A
Alexander Straus – 5/10 – Saw his team be too passive for much of the game. Made attacking changes towards the end, but was it too little too late?