By Tom Bennett
Arsenal Ladies got their 2010/11 Champions League campaign off to a great start in Serbia with a 3-1 win over ZFK Masinac.
In front of a boisterous crowd of some 2,000 home supporters, Arsenal left themselves well placed to progress thanks to goals from Rachel Yankey, Gilly Flaherty and Danielle Carter.
The 2007 European champions couldn’t have started more brightly. Seconds into the game, a curling drive from Kim Little forced goalkeeper Clark to tip the ball over her bar. A glut of chances followed in the opening minutes. Ellen White went close with a header, Yankey shot wide and Gemma Davison forced a good stop from Clark low to her right.
The pressure mounted and, after eight minutes, the Ladies were rewarded. Little threaded a low ball in from the left to Yankey, who raced clear of her marker and blasted past Clark, shooting off the bar and in.
The Gunners continued to press and, for the next 25 minutes, ZFK were forced to contend with a near relentless barrage of Arsenal attacks. Jayne Ludlow went close after 17 minutes, poking wide from close range, and the Welsh midfielder had another effort blocked two minutes later.
On 23 minutes Steph Houghton played a long ball over the ZFK backline, which Little caught sweetly on the volley but couldn’t keep down. Moments later, the pair combined again. Houghton fizzed a low ball into the box, Little lost her marker and struck the ball against the post.
More chances came Arsenal’s way with Faye White, Ludlow, Yankey and Fahey all going close. But ZFK somehow withstood the pressure and began to get into the game, creating some chances of their own.
After 43 minutes, they came close to equalising. Ana Lilić was adjudged to have been fouled close to the left-hand corner of the box. Hristina Sampanidis clattered the resulting free kick against the bar.
The second half began at a less frantic pace, with both sides struggling to create clear goalscoring opportunities.
Then, after 62 minutes, ZFK drew level. Marija Radojičić picked the ball up in the middle of the park and raced towards goal. Managing to hold off Arsenal captain White, she pushed into the box and slipped her shot past the advancing Emma Byrne to score.
Arsenal Ladies refused to be ruffled by the unexpected equaliser though, and pushed forward to find a winner. They created a number of chances, but a combination of Clark and wayward finishing,denied them the immediate response they were seeking.
With 86 minutes gone, they broke through. Flaherty jumped high to meet a Yankey corner with a strong header, guiding the ball into the top corner.
Arsenal were back in front and, two minutes later, Carter sealed victory. Clark fumbled an innocuous-looking through ball and Carter pounced on the error, picking up the spilled ball, sidestepping the keeper's lunge and guiding it into an empty net.
The second leg of Arsenal's Round of 32 tie is on Thursday, October 14 at Boreham Wood FC, kick-off 2pm (UK time).
- Flaherty Goal!
- White (C) 75
- Steph Houghton Yellow Card
- Grant 78
- Yankey Goal!
- Davison 57
- Beattie 78
- Nobbs 57
- Carter 75 Goal!
- Allysa Clark
- Ivana Kostić 80
- Hristina Sampanidis
- Maja Dimitrijević
- Nikoleta Nikolić
- Suzana Vujošević 72
- Tamara Stojanovic 61
- Ana Lilić
- Kristina Krstić (C)
- Marija Radojicic Goal!
- Jadranka Pavićević
- Ana Marinković
- Aleksandra Ristić
- Katarina Petrović 61
- Milica Stojanović
- Andrijana Trisić 72 Yellow Card
- Sladjana Bulatović 80
- Milena Nikolić