Jill Roord scored a hat trick and Vivianne Miedema scored twice as Arsenal Women beat Reading 6-1 in their opening fixture of the WSL season. In truth, Arsenal’s margin of victory could’ve been even larger, Reading made some last gasp clearances and Arsenal were denied two blatant penalties.
Joe Montemurro made three changes to the team that lost against PSG. Viki Schanderbeck came in for the injured Jen Beattie, Jordan Nobbs replaced Danïelle van de Donk, and with Katie McCabe suspended, Steph Catley made her first start for Arsenal. There was also a significant tactical change, with Leah Williamson pushing forward into midfield, joining Lia Wälti as a second number six. The thinking behind that may have been to outnumber Reading’s midfield, but, with Arsenal trying to play out with one fewer player, they struggled initially.
Reading’s press caused Arsenal issues for the first quarter of the game, and the Royals dominated, physically, winning 73% of tackles. With Jess Fishlock and Fara Williams, Reading had the capability to open Arsenal up, with the two number sixes, Arsenal were generally able to stop Reading progressing. On the other side, Arsenal were always a threat once they got the ball into the middle third, with Roord and Kim Little running off of Reading’s midfield. Indeed, Mead set up Roord with a good chance that she dragged well, and then after fifteen minutes a loose ball fell to Leah Williamson, who drove forward. Her lofted cross was met by Kim Little, who volleyed past Grace Moloney in goal.
Vivianne Miedema had yet to be involved, but an excellent early Steph Catley ball found Miedema, only for the offside flag to go up. Reading, though, would be beaten again by a similar play. Catley, who minutes earlier had hit the bar with a free kick, picked up possession, played the early ball to Jordan Nobbs down the left, who slotted the ball across for Miedema, who rounded Moloney and finished. Arsenal were now cruising, and five minutes before halftime, Jill Roord added the third. Beth Mead went on a mazy run, passed to Roord, who from the top of the box passed the ball into the bottom corner.
Reading upped the physicality in the second half, and quickly doubled their shot count with some speculative efforts, though none forced Manuela Zinsberger to make a difficult save. Arsenal were still extremely threatening, and although Nobbs’ first-time curled finish was ruled out for offside, Jill Roord got the fourth shortly after the hour mark. This was a lovely team goal: Roord cushioned Mead’s cross for Kim Little, and then finished the move with a tap-in.
At this point, Arsenal should’ve run up the score. First, Vivianne Miedema was denied a penalty after being barged in the back while trying to get to Nobbs’ cross; and then, Miedema, running through on goal, was fouled, played on, rounded Moloney, and then smashed her shot against a Reading defender rather than finishing. Then, Roord was denied her hattrick by a Reading player clearing off the line. It wouldn’t stay at four for long though; from a corner, Caitlin Foord, on as a sub, played the ball to Miedema, who smashed the ball in off the crossbar from 20 yards.
Foord, who also curled a shot just over the bar, set up Roord for the hatrrick. The ball made its way to Foord in the penalty area, and she smartly played the ball across to Roord who was unmarked, and could finish with her left foot after taking a touch.
Reading would get a consolation. Danielle Carter, who had hit the post from 25 yards, chased down Zinsberger, who was tackled, and saw the ball trickle in. It was sloppy from Arsenal’s perspective, especially Zinsberger, who has made that kind of error before, but it was also a nice moment for Carter, the former Arsenal player, who was playing her first competitive game in fifteen months after a second ACL injury.
Overall, it was an impressive start for Arsenal. There will be some disappointment at not scoring more goals, as goal difference could be one of many marginal deciders this season, but on a day when Arsenal put six past the team that finished fifth in the league last season, it appears to be a trivial complaint.
Arsenal (3-4-2-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Schnaderbeck, Catley (Maier 69’); Mead (Foord 69’), Williamson, Wälti (Van de Donk 69’), Nobbs (Evans 76’); Little (Gut 76’), Roord; Miedema
Subs not used: Stenson, Mace
Goals: Little 15’, Miedema 33’, Roord 40’, 63’, Miedema 78’, Roord 81’; Carter 90’