City suffered our third successive defeat in all competitions with a disappointing 5-0 reverse at Arsenal in the FA Women’s Super League.
A brace from Kim Little, plus goals from Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe and Leah Williamson earned the Gunners’ seventh win of the season to lift the North London outfit top of the table, as a depleted City side struggled against the in-form hosts.
Arsenal capitalised on an early defensive error and never looked like relinquishing the lead, doubling the advantage 13 minutes later and adding three more goals after the break to cruise to three points.
With ten players sidelined through injury – captain Steph Houghton the latest to be ruled out – the prospect of facing the sharp-shooting Gunners without a host of key names was always a tough prospect in the first game back after the international break.
City enjoyed the majority of possession in the early exchanges – looking dangerous on the left flank – but were hit by a hammerblow on 10 minutes when Beth Mead latched onto Alanna Kennedy’s under-hit backpass, poking the ball past Karima Benameur Taieb and squaring for Miedema to take a touch and smash into the back of an empty net.
The Dutch striker was involved again as Arsenal made it two on 23 minutes, flicking into the path of Little who worked space with quick feet before firing into top corner of Taieb’s near post.
Five minutes later, it was almost three when Little’s deflected cross-shot struck the crossbar, while Miedema and Mead forced Taieb into low stops with the Gunners smelling blood.
Demi Stokes prevented matters from worsening for City, racing back to thwart Little with a perfectly-timed tackle as the Scot bore down on goal in the last major action of the half.
City responded well after the break – the lively Lauren Hemp trying to break through the Arsenal defence. Alex Greenwood called Zinsberger into action with a downward header and substitute Filippa Angeldahl trying her luck from range.
Sloppy play at the back gifted the Gunners further opportunities – Little clipping a half-volley just wide – and McCabe made the most of City indecision, collecting Lia Walti’s floated delivery and smashing beyond Taieb.
Janine Beckie then headed wide, while Miedema struck the stanchion behind the goal as the home side continued to threaten on the counter-attack.
White came closest to netting a consolation for City, as Losada chipped into White’s path – but the newly-crowned England Player of the Year (the joint-highest WSL scorer against the Gunners) could only find the crossbar.
Arsenal grabbed their fourth of the evening from the penalty spot, after Greenwood upended Little with the Scot stepping up to convert for her second of the game.
Khadija Shaw almost reduced the deficit late on, firing over the bar, but Arsenal would have the final say, as Williamson headed low in injury time, as the home side moved top of the table.
How we lined up…
Taylor made two changes to the side that fell to defeat against Tottenham Hotspur last time out, as Stokes and Weir replaced the injured duo of Houghton (Achilles) and Esme Morgan (leg fracture). Greenwood passed a late fitness test to start in central defence.
Taieb took her place in goal, shielded by a backline of Stokes, Greenwood, Kennedy and Georgia Stanway.
CITY XI | Taieb, Stokes, Greenwood, Kennedy, Stanway, Coombs (Angeldahl 55′), Weir, Losada (Scott 77′), Hemp (Shaw 69′), Beckie (Park 69′), White (C).
SUBS | Keating, Mace.
ARSENAL XI | Zinsberger, Martiz, Williamson, Beattie (Wubben-Moy 86′), Catley, Walti (Iwabuchi 86′), Maanum, Little (C), Mead (Heath 86′), Miedema (Foord 78′), McCabe (Parris 64′).
SUBS | Williams, Patten, Schnaderbeck, Nobbs.
● None of the 16 league matches between the two sides have ended as a draw, with nine wins for City and seven for the Gunners (the most defeats we have suffered against a single team). It is the most times a fixture has been played without there ever being a draw in FA WSL history.
● The result marked City’s heaviest defeat in any competition since joining the top-flight in 2014.
City host Leicester City in the 2020/21 Women’s FA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday 29 September (19:00 UK time).
Taylor’s side then welcome West Ham United in the FA WSL on Sunday 3 October (14:00).