By Giuseppe Muro
Katie Chapman scored a dramatic goal deep into injury time to give Arsenal Ladies a historic 4-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Thursday to progress into the Champions League Quarter-Finals.
Laura Harvey’s side produced a magnificent display to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit on an extraordinary afternoon at Boreham Wood that will go down as one of the finest moments the Club has ever seen.
Goals from Rachel Yankey, Julie Fleeting and Ciara Grant put the Gunners in control before the tie looked to have been snatched away when a late strike from Adriana Martin Santamaria gave Rayo the edge on away goals.
But this was Arsenal’s day and it seemed fitting that the inspirational Chapman turned the game with the last attack of the match.
Manager Harvey made just one change to the side that went down so disappointingly in Spain last week with Jordan Nobbs replacing Ellen White in midfield. Kim Little continued to lead the Arsenal attack with Yankey and Gemma Davison willing supporters on either flank.
A torrential downpour greeted the referee’s opening whistle. With conditions becoming tough under foot and the wind blowing viciously this was never going to be a classic. But Arsenal hurried their opponents in possession and took the game by the scruff of the neck early on.
In the opening 10 minutes Alexandra Lopez Rosillio was forced to desperately scramble off the line to deny first Nobbs and then Little. In the 11th minute, Yankey made the breakthrough and the fight back began.
The winger found herself 25 yards from goal on the right and her in-swinging cross missed everyone before skidding off the wet surface and finding the far corner. A sustained period of pressure followed as their Spanish opponents showed little of the precise football they played seven days ago.
On 37 minutes Yankey was at it again but this time from the left. Her dangerous cross from the byline was missed by goalkeeper Alicia Gomez Prada and, with the goal at their mercy, both Nobbs and Davison somehow missed their headers from barely a yard.
They were nearly made to rue that chance two minutes before the break when the dangerous Santamaria forced Emma Byrne to acrobatically tip over the bar.
After the restart the Gunners were given a real let off as Sonia Bermudez Tribano raced clear and prodded wide past the onrushing Byrne when she should have scored.
But six minutes later the tie was level. Little cut inside from the left and when her curling effort was saved by Prada the ball fell kindly for substitute Fleeting. From eight yards she bundled home despite a desperate attempted clearance form Rocio Ruiz Molinero.
The relief among the players was obvious. It was game on.
The Gunners then put one step in the next round on 68 minutes.
Little swung a corner towards the near post and Grant was there to jump highest and head home from close range and the comeback was complete.
But not quite.
There was a nasty sting in the tale as Santamaria rounded Bryne to slot home 12 minutes from time and Arsenal had it all to do again.
Three minutes later their task became that little bit harder when Flaherty was given a straight red card for an off the ball incident. A tough task had just got harder.
Arsenal piled forward but all their efforts came to nothing until Chapman poked home from a yard to spark jubilant scenes.
- Flaherty Red Card
- Grant 85 Goal!
- Nobbs 81
- Yankey Goal!
- Davison 60
- Chapman Goal! Yellow Card
- Beattie 85
- White 81
- Fleeting 60 Goal!
- Sanchon 73 Yellow Card
- Fuentes 83
- Santamaria Goal! Yellow Card
- Leandro Yellow Card
- Ona Yellow Card
- Sanchez 73
- Pizarro 83