Arsenal Women withstood a late comeback from Birmingham City to win 4-2 and go eight points clear of Chelsea at the top of the Women’s Super League—albeit with Chelsea having three games in hand. Arsenal’s only loss had come against Birmingham, in a match that the Gunners, despite having a majority of possession, didn’t really control. Today was the opposite: while Birmingham were holding Arsenal at bay, their two banks of four and five were pushed all the way back, and Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza had very little to deal with on the counter attack, even as Steph Catley and Laura Wienroither pushed forward from full back.
Arsenal were also threatening from set pieces: Miedema had a shot blocked from a Catley corner, and after fourteen minutes, the pressure told. After Wienroither’s shot deflected onto the post, Arsenal scored from the ensuring corner. Rafaelle leapt highest to meet Catley’s delivery, and her downward header bounced over Hourihan in goal. Rafaelle’s goal, her first for Arsenal, set the Gunners off on a day of milestones.
On thirty-one minutes, Vivianne Miedema became the first player in WSL history to have 100 goal involvements. Kim Little won the ball back, nutmegged one, and then slipped Miedema in. Her shot was blocked and then Stina Blackstenius’ effort ricocheted back to Miedema, who had a simple tap in to make it 2-0—Miedema’s 70th WSL goal, to go along with 30 assists, in 83 games.
Arsenal looked to have wrapped the game up on 71 minutes. Catley’s cross was deflected back to her, and with her right foot, she slipped Beth Mead in, who passed the ball into the far corner for another milestone: her 50th goal.
Yet, unbelievably, Arsenal almost let the game slip. At that point, Birmingham had only had one shot on target, but from a set piece they pulled one back, with Wienroither kicking the ball off of Libby Smith in an attempt to clear it. With 15 minutes left, Arsenal still had a comfortable lead, but on 82 minutes, it become distinctly uncomfortable. From a throw in, Rafaelle was placed under pressure by two, and Lucy Quinn blocked her attempted clearance, collected the ball, and shot over Zinsberger to make it 3-2.
Arsenal had brought off Blackstenius, Miedema, Little, and Catley, and although the replacements included Tobin Heath, there was a period where Arsenal looked as if they had forgotten how to play. After a period though, Arsenal began possessing the ball, and in stoppage time, a superb lofted ball from the excellent Lia Wälti found Caitlin Foord in behind, and Foord made no mistake to wrap up the three points.
There was still time for one more milestone: Jordan Nobbs made a two-minute cameo for her 250th appearance for Arsenal.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Wienroither, Williamson, Rafaelle Souza, Catley (Heath 72’); Wälti, Little (Maanum 72’); Mead (Nobbs 90+3’), Miedema (Iwabuchi 72’), McCabe; Blackstenius (Foord 60’)
Substitutes not used: Williams (GK), Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Maritz
Goals: Rafaelle 14’, Miedema 31’, Mead 71’, Foord 90+2’