Arsenal snatch late winner as missed chances frustrate Stoney
Manchester United were unfortunate not to collect the first point of their Women’s Super League residence, against an Arsenal side underwhelming for the majority of the first half. But in the final 10 minutes – so frenetic that Vivianne Miedema headed wide, struck the post and had a shot cleared off the line – Arsenal’s gradual ascent into dominance showed when substitute Danielle van de Donk, with a minute of normal time remaining, blasted home as the ball pinballed around the box.
In added time, Kirsty Hanson lofted a free-kick on to the roof of Manuela Zinsberger’s net, and this is United’s chief shortcoming.
That Casey Stoney’s side have spent about an hour of their opening two matches with the league’s resident Champions League representatives penned in their own third indicates that they can disrupt the established order. But they have yet to score.
“It’s almost a repeat of not taking our chances,” Stoney said. “The fact that we’re talking about fine margins after playing Arsenal and Man City, when we started 14 months ago, is testament to my players and staff. They deserved something out of the game. We pushed them all the way. We’d be happy with a topsix finish and I think that’s still our target.”
For all their invention, United were intense without looking dangerous. They mustered their first shot on target 57 minutes in, Jane Ross latching on to Jess Sigsworth’s through ball only for Zinsberger to divert the danger and Leonie Maier to scrape Ross’s follow-up off the line.
Arsenal lacked their usual cutting edge until well into the second half but eventually put the game to bed.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps was United’s most valuable player here. First, there was the double save to deny Miedema from close range.
Earps was alive again, swooping into a carbon copy of a double save from Kim Little’s fleet-footed trickery inside the box. Little and Jordan Nobbs, making her first start since rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament in November 2018, were Arsenal’s brightest in a game where Miedema, in a deeper role, was often isolated.
“A lot of sides will find it very, very difficult here – they’re a good side,” said Joe Montemurro, the Arsenal manager. “They had lots of numbers in front of the goal – they had eight players between the penalty spot and the six-yard box at one stage. It was quite amazing.”
Perhaps United would have come closer were Jackie Groenen and Lotta Okvist not missing with a knock and concussion respectively, but it would be churlish to complain when Ella Toone headed wide after beating Leah Williamson and Sigsworth also missed a chance to score.
Decisive: Danielle van de Donk (centre) celebrates her winning goal