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Arsenal Women 2-1 Birmingham City Women: Gunners stage late comeback to reach League Cup semi-finals on a dramatic evening

PUBLISHED: 21:33 09 January 2019

Arsenal Women's Sari van Veenendaal. CREDIT ARSENAL FC

Arsenal Women's Sari van Veenendaal. CREDIT ARSENAL FC

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Arsenal Women’s team had the opportunity to reach the semi-finals of the FA Women’s Continental League Cup on Wednesday evening when they hosted Birmingham City Women at Meadow Park. Read on for Layth Yousif’s match report.

Arsenal Women's Sari van Veenendaal. PAArsenal Women's Sari van Veenendaal. PA

Arsenal staged a dramatic comeback to record a 2-1 victory over a lively Birmingham City side at Meadow Park to reach semi-finals of the FA Women’s Continental League Cup on Wednesday evening.

A 61st minute goal from Birmingham City’s Lucy Skinner was cancelled out by an equaliser six minutes from time by Danielle van de Donk before a late winner from Vivianne Miedema sealed a dramatic 2-1 victory.

The Gunners were kept in the game through an excellent first half penalty save by Gunners keeper Sari can Veenendaal and capitalised on her spot-kick heroics by clinching the tie late on.

New signing Janni Arnth who joined from Linkopings FC late last year again started, looking to build on her goalscoring debut during the encouraging 4-2 win over West Ham United at the weekend.

The defender revealed she has been asked to carry out a specific role by boss Joe Montemurro in terms of finely balancing her attacking duties with her ‘day job’ as part of the backline.

Dominque Bloodworth also made the first XI after surgery before Christmas.

Winger Beth Mead also started after excelling in that victory over the Irons in Sunday – even if she was not as effective as she would have liked on a challenging evening against an excellent Blues side. .

Prior to kick-off Montemurro’s side had made a perfect start to the tournament picking up four victories from group-stage matches.

The Gunners started their hunt for silverware in this competition by beating West Ham 3-1 through a brace from Katie McCabe before they routed Lewes Ladies 9-0 aided by trebles from Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema.

Five academy graduates played in the 5-0 thrashing over Charlton Athletic before the talented 16-year-old Ruby Grant notched her first Arsenal goal during the 3-1 triumph over Millwall.

Arsenal’s Katie McCabe grabbed half a dozen strikes this term with five coming in the League Cup with the Irish international hitting a brace against the Irons before scoring once against Lewes and twice against the Addicks.

The opposition headed into the game after ending the group stages as runners-up, three points behind Manchester City.

They may have lost on spot-kicks against Bristol City, but had claimed a trio of victories netting 10 goals without reply.

However the Blues could not add to their prolific total with 20 minutes gone in the match when Gunners keeper van Veenendaal pulled off an excellent penalty save to deny Aoife Mannion.

Mannion who had been celebrating an international call-up by Ireland placed the kick low, near to the 28-year-old Dutch netminder’s right hand post.

However the 28-year-old former FC Twente shotstopper who has been with the North London giants since 2015 proved equal to the task, diving full length to her right to keep out the spot-kick – much to the relief of teammates after the lively Lucy Quinn was fouled in the box.

Marc Skinner’s City side dominated the first half with their movement and attacking instincts which put the WSL table-toppers on the back foot on home turf.

With the influential Leah Williamson benched – more as a nod to Sunday’s eagerly-awaited league clash against Chelsea – the Arsenal backline lacked some of their usual fluency in building from the back.

However despite the majority of play Skinner’s side were unable to breach a determined rearguard despite regular forays forward down the right flank, mainly prompted by their right sided defender in a back three Harriet Scott.

The second half stated in the same vein with the Blues pushing Arsenal back with their high press and intense work rate even if the feeling persisted that there was a limit to how much energy they could expend with such a tactic before the excessive demands began to tell.

However before their exertions began to tell, the Blues took the lead through Quinn who bundled the ball into the net on 61 minutes to put Skinner’s visitors ahead.

As Birmingham legs began to tire Vivianne Miedema - a powerhouse of a striker forced to feed off scraps in the first half as City put the Gunners on the back foot - could perhaps have angled a second half header more accurately when well-placed with 20 minutes remaining.

That was before van de Donk equalised with six minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish which saw Miediema clinch the late, if slightly undeserved winner after rounding Blues keeper Hampton with seconds remaining.

Lucky Arsenal? Perhaps given the Blues attacking intent and first half dominance. But no-one in red and white will be complaining.

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