Arsenal Women remained top of the league after beating Reading Women 3-0. Vivianne Miedema scored her 50th and 51st goals of the calendar year, and Kim Little put the finishing move on a fantastic team goal as the champions climbed two points ahead of Chelsea, who have a game in hand. Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 earlier today.
Having beaten Bristol City 11-1 last week, Arsenal were heavy favourites. Yet, Reading should have taken the lead. A misplaced back pass played in Fara Williams, whose first touch was good, but, having got one on one with Manuela Zinsberger, was unable to score, with Zinsberger’s strong hand pushing the shot wide.
Reading played a narrow 4-4-2 with heavy pressing, with their wide midfielders tucking in to stop Arsenal’s midfield, and make it more difficult for Arsenal’s centre backs to play out. With Schnaderbeck playing left-back, and Danïelle van de Donk and Beth Mead tucking in, it became difficult for Arsenal to exploit the wide space. That space was there, though: Kim Little played an excellent through ball for Lisa Evans, but having been so good with her cutbacks last week, Evans’ centre was cut out before it could reach the waiting Beth Mead. Later, Vivianne Miedema shot over from distance, put Reading were very much on top.
After a series of Reading corners put Zinsberger under pressure, Arsenal took the lead. Kim Little intercepted, Jordan Nobbs played the ball to Van de Donk, and all of a sudden, Arsenal were in. Van de Donk slipped in Miedema to her left, and Miedema chipped an onrushing Grace Maloney to make it 1-0.
The goal took the steam out of Reading’s pressing game, and it was soon two, after a sensational team-goal. From a corner, Beth Mead passed to Kim Little, who played a one-two with Leah Williamson. From the one-two, Little volleyed to Jordan Nobbs, who flicked the ball back up for Little, who controlled and then finished on the half-volley. It is a goal that represents how Arsenal want to play, and how they want to take situations like set pieces and turn them into areas where they can pass and move. It could’ve been three soon after, but Miedema shot into the side netting from Little’s pass.
Reading came out for the second half with renewed physicality, forcing Arsenal to change their pattern of playing out, with Zinsberger going long to Schanderbeck from goal kicks. The match disintegrated into a series of fouls, with Reading lucky to stay at their full complement of players after Jade Moore and Lisa-Marie Utland repeatedly fouling Beth Mead, having already been booked.
Arsenal were fairly content to keep the match at 2-0, but space did begin to open up. Miedema played in Mead, whose shot was smothered by Maloney. Into injury time, though, Arsenal got their third. From the half way line, Van de Donk played a long crossfield ball into Miedema’s path, who let the ball bounce and then chipped over Maloney on the half-volley. Despite not controlling the match as they would’ve liked, Arsenal largely prevented Reading from creating chances. Afterwards, Joe Montemurro credited the team, saying, “We can’t always play the football that we want to play, we have to be logical and realistic coming to places like this, these are good teams and the games are hard. They didn’t allow us to play but we had to adapt and we did that well.” With Chelsea right on their tails, Arsenal must continue to win these games if they are to defend their league title.