Arsenal Women have one foot in the group stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League after a first leg 3-0 win against Slavia Praha in the second qualifying round. Nikita Parris scored after only two minutes, Kim Little added a penalty, and then the substitute Vivianne Miedema scored (of course) in the second half.
Arsenal have to manage not only a congested fixture list, with Chelsea’s visit to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, the second leg on Thursday, and then a trip to Reading the following Sunday, but the absence of their manager, Jonas Eidevall, who was in Sweden finalizing visas for his family. Assistant manager Aaron D’Antino took charge, and saw the team get off to a perfect start. Katie McCabe interchanged passes with Steph Catley, and the Australian’s deep cross was headed home at the far post by Parris.
Under Jonas Eidevall, Arsenal have changed some of their style of play. When Joe Montemurro was manager, Arsenal were a more patient team: frequently, the ball would be passed backwards, and in Arsenal’s third to try and draw teams forward before playing beyond them. Eidevall wants his team to be more direct, and that was reflected not only in how Arsenal tried to move more quickly back to front, but in the amount of crosses Arsenal put into the box—a marked difference from last season.
It took Arsenal half an hour to score the second. Frida Maanum played a scooped pass towards Caitlin Foord, who was flattened in the box, resulting in a penalty that Kim Little dispatched with authority. By then, Arsenal were in complete control, the pressing and counterpressing that Eidevall has begun to instill, and Slavia were unable to cause Manu Zinsberger much trouble.
Slavia came out stronger in the second half, pressing more, and the game became scrappier. Arsenal, though, were able to bring on Vivianne Miedema, who ran on to fellow substitute Beth Mead’s superb pass, and rounded the keeper before dinking the ball into the net. Though the Gunners should’ve scored more goals, Arsenal’s job of ensuring a good lead before the second leg was very much done. Focus now turns to the small matter of playing Chelsea at home in the WSL.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson (Wubben-Moy 62’), Beattie, Catley; Maanum (Patten 88’), Little (Wälti 62’); Parris (Mead 71’), Iwabuchi, McCabe; Foord (Miedema 62’)
Substitues: Williams (GK), Cull (GK), Boye, Goldie
Goals: Parris 2’, Little (p) 31’, Miedema 72’
Yellow cards: Maanum, Maritz