Tobin Heath’s 92nd minute equalizer ended Arsenal’s run of three straight defeats in all competitions. The Gunners were on the verge of losing their second straight game in the WSL before Heath’s goal, which leaves Arsenal top of the WSL, two points ahead of Manchester United in second, with a game in hand, and four points ahead of Chelsea, who have a game in hand on Arsenal.
Leah Williamson returned to Arsenal’s lineup, as the Gunners made two changes from the defeat against Manchester United, with Lotte Wubben-Moy replacing Jen Beattie. Manchester City started the 17 year old Khiara Keating in goal, and a mix up between Keating and Steph Houghton on a header presented Arsenal with a decent chance that Beth Mead was unable to convert.
The rest of the first half was a tepid affair between two teams that daren’t lose. City threatened from set pieces, but Arsenal looked comfortable in open play, and controlled much of the possession, without doing a great deal with the ball—a common theme from recent weeks.
City started the sharper of the teams in the second half, with a Vicky Losada shot from the top of the D going just wide. Arsenal had brought on Rafaelle Souza to replace Leah Williamson at the break, with Rafaelle making her league debut. Her first impact with the ball was to kickstart one of Arsenal’s better attacking moves of the game: her pass into Miedema allowed Miedema to turn her defender, play the ball to Frida Maanum, who set Mead up one versus one against Lucy Bronze. Mead drove past Bronze, but saw her left footed shot parried by Keating in goal. Miedema then had a shot from a wide angle saved by Keating. City then had a good chance, with Jess Park played in, but Zinsberger saved and Wubben-Moy headed the rebound behind for a corner.
City would then take the lead, in controversial fashion. The referee, Abigail Byrne, intercepted a City pass that was destined for Caroline Weir, with Jordan Nobbs prime to intercept. The ball ran on to Demi Stokes, who played in Lauren Hemp, who skipped past a sliding Maritz before delivering a perfect low cross that Bunny Shaw buried past Zinsberger in goal to give City the lead. Arsenal protested, as the ball hit the referee, who inexplicably played on. The laws of the game state very clearly that the ball hitting the referee means it is immediately a drop ball; but the referee either did not remember that particular law, which has been in place since 2019, or ignored it. In any event, Jonas Eidevall was booked for his protestations.
Eidevall rang the changes, with Heath, Lia Wälti and Stina Blackstenius replacing Nikita Parris, Maanum, and Nobbs, but Arsenal looked more likely to concede than score, with Hemp getting denied by Zinsberger.
As the game went into stoppage time, it felt as if Arsenal were running out of time to rescue not only the game, but their league campaign, only for Heath to intervene. Beth Mead won a second ball ahead of Stokes, and though her touch was heavy, the ball fell to Blackstenius. With her back to goal, Blackstenius worked the ball over to Heath, who took one touch to set herself and then a devastating second with her left to fire past Keating and equalize, for her first WSL goal for Arsenal.
TOBIN HEATH #WatchWithAta #BarclaysFAWSL pic.twitter.com/Ad2WMglhME— ata football (@atafball) January 23, 2022
Time will tell whether that Heath goal ends up being a turning point for Arsenal, who finally scored in 2022. There are still larger questions about Arsenal’s pattern of play, and structure of attacks, but the last minute equalizer can at least go some way to tiding Arsenal over this difficult period.
Arsenal: Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson (Rafaelle Souza 46’), Wubben-Moy, McCabe; Little; Parris (Heath 63’), Nobbs (Blackstenius 72’), Maanum (Wälti 63’), Mead; Miedema
Substitutes not used: Stenson, Beattie, Boye, Schnaderbeck, Wienroither
Yellow cards: McCabe, Parris, Miedema
Goals: Heath 90+2’