Manchester City Women played brilliantly in their 2-0 win over title-rivals Arsenal Ladies, extending their winning start to the season.
An early red card for Arsenal’s Jemma Rose saw City go on to dominate the game, with Jane Ross and Toni Duggan scoring for the Blues in the second half.
Forced to start with an unchanged line-up due to injury concerns, City knew they had to significantly step up their level of play following their previous game against Notts County in order to stand a chance of winning.
City indeed started well, with Toni Duggan looking to have Arsenal’s defence sussed in the opening minutes; her lively play forcing Arsenal to clear the ball in to touch twice in quick succession.
The first half was energetic from both sides, with City’s first of several half-chances coming after 7 minutes – Jane Ross and Jill Scott working well together on the left to force Arsenal into another long clearance.
Arsenal’s best chance of the game came after 10 minutes, with Steph Houghton fouling Carter just outside the box. Up stepped dead-ball specialist Fara Williams, hitting the underside of the bar with a wonderful strike. The power of the shot gave Bardsley no chance but luckily for City it bounced out and was cleared.
The landscape of the game was changed after ten minutes as Jane Ross, who’d done well to beat her defender and shield the ball after a great pass from deep over the top, was fouled by the chasing Jemma Rose, who was sent off for being the last man.
City took advantage of the sending off and started to find more space, going close to scoring a few times. Demi Stokes with a long-range effort that was well hit to the upper middle of van Veenendaal’s goal, forcing the goalkeeper to make an acrobatic save. Shortly after, nice work from Jill Scott put Duggan clean through on goal, however Stoney prevented a goal with a fantastic last-ditch block.
Despite going down to ten, Arsenal still had an attacking threat in new signing Asisat Oshoala, who found herself through on goal after beating Steph Houghton at the back. Abbie McManus, who was excellent throughout, was across quickly to cover and made an excellent tackle to prevent the visitors from taking the lead.
The last chance of the first half fell to Toni Duggan, who turned neatly to face goal and saw her low shot hit the right post. City were starting to get closer to opening the scoring but the half time whistle came too soon for the Blues, with the half ending 0-0.
In contrast to their previous game versus Notts County, City worked the ball well in the second half and displayed consistently fluid passing, with Arsenal again having to defend well to deny Nikita Parris from close range following the restart.
Arsenal were getting frustrated, with City restricting the Gunners to long shots; van de Donk sending a shot miles wide from 40-yards despite having better options around her.
Finally rewarded for all of their hard work, City opened the scoring after 63 minutes following tireless running down the right hand side by Duggan, who chased down Williamson to win the ball. Continuing her run into the box, Duggan crossed the ball perfectly to Jane Ross, who snapped up the opportunity to score her first goal for City with a bullet header into the top left corner of the goal.
The Blues’ forward line continued to look to add another goal to extend City’s 1-0 lead and went close following good chances that were squandered by Asllani and Duggan – Asllani going the closest, seeing her fierce shot well saved by van Veenendaal.
City sealed the win 78 minutes into the game after Parris was apparently brought down in the box, however replays perhaps questioning the referee’s decision after it appeared that Parris had actually been brought down just outside. Nevertheless, Duggan stepped up to take the resulting penalty, blasting it into the net off the post, leaving the Arsenal goalkeeper with no chance of saving it. After the game, Toni admitted that she was nervous before taking the penalty after failing to convert at the Academy Stadium just a few days earlier against Notts County, but removed all doubts after confidently putting it away.
The final chance of the game fell to City after Kosovare Asllani found herself with time and space on the edge of the box, but she took far too long to get the ball out of her feet and instead set up Duggan, who attempted to replicate her wonder goal from last season against Arsenal, but the ball sailed wide of the left upright.
FT City 2 – 0 Arsenal
A brilliant win for City sees them extend their unbeaten run to 3 games. With a slow start to last season, City would have been aiming to start the new campaign quickly and get some wins on the board, which they’ve done. The Blues trailed eventual league winners Chelsea for all of last season with a game in hand, but following the postponement of today’s FA WSL fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool, the table has been turned, at least for now. It will be interesting to see if Chelsea take it in their stride, or whether being in an unfamiliar position will affect them.
WOTM: Toni Duggan. Provided the assist for Jane Ross’ goal after brilliant work to steal the ball from Williamson down the right and put City out of sight with her penalty goal.
Here’s what Duggan and City manager Nick Cushing had to say after the game.
City play Sporting Albion on Sunday 3rd April, 2pm at the Academy Stadium in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
MCWFC: Bardsley, Bronze, Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Corboz, J. Scott, Duggan, Asllani, Parris, Ross.
Unused: Hourihan, Tynan, Paul, Holland, Kemp.
Arsenal: van Veenendaal, A. Scott (C), Mitchell, Rose, Stoney (Corredera 73’), Losada, Williams, Nobbs, Carter (Williamson 17’), van de Donk, Oshoala (Janssen 45’)
Unused: Byrne, De Pablos, McCabe, Henning.
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Written by Jill Peacock