Arsenal dare to dream of Champions League and a permanent home at the Emirates
Arsenal Women 2 Bayern München Ladies 0; Agg 2-1
Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall feels his team are on the threshold of "history" and moving closer towards the Emirates Stadium becoming the women's team's permanent home after they enjoyed their finest night to date there by knocking out German giants Bayern Munich to reach the Women's Champions League semi-finals.
This Arsenal team's coming-of-age performance sent them through to the semi-finals of the competition for the first time in 10 years, and they did it in front of 21,307 spectators, a new English record for a Women's Champions League fixture, something Eidevall feels vindicated their decision to play all of the European fixtures at the larger venue rather than their usual home at Borehamwood.
"I get the sense of belief that we’re seeing history getting created very quickly in front of our eyes, when I see how the attendances and the culture is here at the Emirates Stadium. Five years ago, if someone would have said that Arsenal’s long-term plan is to move permanently to Emirates Stadium, people would probably have asked ‘how is that going to happen?’, but now I think people understand that that might be a realistic vision for the future," said a proud Eidevall.
Sizeable turnouts at the Emirates are not a new thing for the women's team now - they have seen crowds in excess of 40,000 three times in Women's Super League, including the WSL record of 47,367 for September's north London derby. However, this was their finest performance under the lights for a European fixture on this ground, and they will now face either Wolfsburg or Paris Saint-Germain in the last four.
WHAT A STUNNER BY FRIDA MAANUM TO LEVEL THE TIE UP FOR ARSENAL!!!
WATCH #UWCL LIVE NOW ⬇️
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— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) March 29, 2023
They will have every hope of reaching June's final now, after eliminating a Bayern Munich team who have conceded only four league goals all season and who sit top of the Frauen Bundesliga after beating their nearest rivals Wolfsburg on Saturday. It was a Bayern team full of international stars, from Germany's Lina Magull to England's Georgia Stanway, but they were left disappointed as the English club's high-intensity first-half display blew the Germans away.
"We have the potential, when we hit all things perfect, to beat any team," Eidevall added. "That doesn’t mean it’s perfect every time but we have that potential as a team – wouldn’t it be incredible to see how high we can fly together? If we hit it right, we can beat any team. But I don’t take anything for granted. Every opponent will prepare even better [to face Arsenal] now."
Trailing 1-0 from a first leg in Munich Arsenal, the only British women's club to have ever won a European title, back in 2007, initially had the worst possible start as their captain Kim Little went off injured. Nonetheless, Arsenal secured the early goal they had craved when Norway’s Frida Maanum blasted a rocket straight into the top corner from just outside the area, after a neat flick from Leah Williamson to set her up. As the home crowd’s hopes rose in the wake of that hair-raising strike, the Arsenal player’s confidence soared, and they were soon causing the German side all sorts of problems.
As the hosts’ pressure built, Katie McCabe clipped an invited cross in from the left and Stina Blackstenius headed in to spark joyous scenes in the stands. They should have scored more, but it mattered little, on the night of their dreams.
Things could get better for English women's football on Thursday, when Chelsea meet holders Lyon. Chelsea lead that tie 1-0 on aggregate, ahead of Thursday's second leg at Stamford Bridge. In Wednesday’s early kick-off, the competition favourites Barcelona put five goals past Roma at Camp Nou to secure a 6-1 aggregate victory, having led 1-0 from the first leg.
Arsenal Women (4-3-3): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Rafaelle, McCabe (Hurtig, 89); Little (Wubben-Moy, 12), Maanum, Wälti; Pelova (Wienroither, 77), Blackstenius (Beattie, 89), Foord.
Substitutes not used: D’Angelo (gk), Marckese (gk), Kühl, Goldie, Agyemang, Reid.
Booked: Wubben-Moy, Rafaelle, Maritz.
Goals: Maanum (19), Blackstenius (26).
Bayern München Ladies (4-3-3): Grohs; Rall (Laurent, 80), Viggosdottir, Kumagai, Hansen; Zadrazil (Lohmann, 80), Stanway, Magull (Rudelic, 88); Bühl, Schüller (Vilhjalmsdottir, 88), Kett (Damnjanovic, 64).
Substitutes not used: Benkarth (gk), Runarsdottir (gk), Bragstad, Landenberger, Gloning.
Booked: Kett, Damnjanovic, Stanway.
Referee: Marta Huerta de Aza (Spain).