Arsenal’s Champions League run is over, after PSG beat the Gunners 2-1 in Bilbao. PSG were the sharper, fitter team, and were deserved winners. PSG, of course, had played two competitive fixtures in recent weeks—the Coupe de France final against Lyon and the semi-final against Bordeaux, in addition to various friendlies. Arsenal had only played three friendlies after returning to training, and the absence of competitive minutes showed greatly in the first fifteen minutes, which PSG dominated, with Ramona Bachmann influential in midfield, and Nadia Nadim and Kadidiatou Diani getting the better of the two Arsenal full backs, Noëlle Maritz and Katie McCabe.
And PSG’s pressure told. Nadia Nadim swung in a corner from the right, and Marie-Antoinette Katoto got a head start on Leah Williamson, allowing her to meet the corner with a sweet half-volley, giving Manuela Zinsberger no chance to save.
And yet, Arsenal should’ve struck back immediately. Kim Little drove forward, and set up Lisa Evans, who played the ball to Maritz, whose cutback was timed perfectly for Little, only for the Arsenal captain to fire wide, instead of on target. PSG responded by strengthening their hold on the game, with Diani and Katoto targetting Arsenal’s left, and Bachmann pulling strings in midfield. Arsenal could only respond with long balls into the channels, and struggled to get Vivianne Miedema into the game.
Finally, Arsenal began to push higher up and start moving the ball on the ground. While it gave PSG opportunities on the counter—a stretched out Williamson only just denying Katoto from a ball over the top—it meant Arsenal could finally get Danïelle van de Donk and Lia Wälti involved in building play. It was, though, Little who was pulling strings, and she set Beth Mead up for the equaliser. From a throw, Little held off her defender, spun, and passed to Mead. Mead looked offside but the referee played on, and her left footed curled strike went beyond the hand of Endler in goal.
Arsenal equalize!— Champions League on CBS Sports (@UCLonCBSSports) August 22, 2020
A curling effort from Mead gets past the PSG keeper and we are level at 1-1. pic.twitter.com/SSiuQbMC7Y
Arsenal started the second half in the same vein; playing higher up the pitch, and controlling the ball. Yet, they lost Jen Beattie to injury, and the legs started to go, with PSG regaining ascendency in the midfield. Yet, despite PSG’s control, they did not create much—Diani’s skimmed shot was easily saved by Zinsberger. PSG’s superior physicality was beginning to show, though, as Arsenal dropped deeper and deeper, isolating Miedema. Despite having game-changers on the bench, Montemurro waited to make a change, even as some players, such as Mead, Evans and Katie McCabe, looked out on their feet.
Finally, Montemurro made the change, but PSG went ahead three minutes after. Diani won the ball back from McCabe in the Arsenal third, and Katoto sent across the cutback. Signe Bruun beat Williamson with a dart, and the ball nestled in the corner of Zinsberger’s goal. With fifteen minutes left, there was plenty of time for Arsenal to get back in the game, but it was PSG who looked fresher, and really should’ve extended their league, with Sara Däbritz’s shot flying wide and Katoto shooting straight at Zinsberger.