Lotte Wubben-Moy’s late equaliser mean Arsenal Women have it all to play for in next Thursday’s second leg of the Champions League quarter-final. Tabea Waßmuth scored her 16th goal of the season to put Wolfsburg in front after nineteen minutes, but Wubben-Moy, the Arsenal academy graduate and lifelong Arsenal fan, leveled the tie.
Arsenal had lost their previous two Champions League games, 4-0 against Barcelona at the Emirates, and 4-1 against Bundesliga side Hoffenheim. But, Arsenal are in better form now than they were in December, and the Gunners started well, with Stina Blackstenius finding Beth Mead, only for her left footed shot to be dragged wide.
But for Arsenal’s good start and control of possession, Wolfsburg took the lead. Wolfsburg capitalized on a loose pass in midfield, and though Manuela Zinsberger saved, when the cross came in from the left, Waßmuth got ahead of Mead in the box and planted her header beyond Zinsberger.
Wolfsburg could’ve had a second, following another quick break and a cross but Popp headed over. Arsenal, though, began to come back into the game: McCabe’s header was scrambled away, and Mead, played into a good position cut back and shot straight at Almuth Schult when the cutback to Blackstenius was on.
If Wolfsburg had controlled the first half, blocking Arsenal from accessing the most dangerous spaces, Arsenal controlled the opening period of the second half. Mead wriggled her way to the byline but then couldn’t pick out a teammate and then, after a superb Miedema pass played in Maritz, Blackstenius, with an open goal, sent her shot back towards Maritz rather than goal.
Blackstenius would have the ball in the net, but it was ruled out by a late offside flag. With VAR in the quarter-finals onwards, necessitating the use of the Emirates, the decision stood. Then, Arsenal had perhaps their best chance. Mead drove from the left and then played an excellent ball across the box, but an outstretched Miedema couldn’t make contact, and the chance went begging.
Having been dominant, Arsenal nearly lost the tie: Waßmuth was played through on goal, but her shot struck the post, and from the following move, Jill Roord’s shot was saved by Zinsberger onto the post, with Arsenal able to scramble the ball clear. Waßmuth may have been offside in the build-up, but Arsenal were much let off the hook.
The chances stemmed Arsenal’s momentum, and the match fell into a pattern of Arsenal possession with Wolfsburg playing deeper, looking to hit on the counter-attack. Tobin Heath, Frida Maanum, and Nikita Parris all came on, but it was Wubben-Moy who would pull out the equalizer, taking a touch to intercept Heath’s low free kick and then firing into goal. It had looked like it was a shot that had gone wrong, but later, it was revealed to be something off the cuff. The ingenuity gives Arsenal a lifeline ahead of next Thursday’s second leg in the Volkswagen Arena.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Wubben-Moy, Catley; Little, Wälti; Mead (Parris 83’), Miedema, McCabe (Heath 76’); Blackstenius (Maanum 83’)
Substitutes not used: Williams, Beattie, Nobbs, Boye, Wienroither