Arsenal 3-3 Bardolino Verona

UEFA Women's Cup Boreham Wood FC Tuesday, October 16, 6pm
 

By Matt Fortune

The majority of Kelly Smith's appearances in the past six months have been top European games, domestic Cup Finals or World Cup matches in front of 30,000 people. So you can understand why the England star has suffered a slight comedown since the new season started.

Smith has played four games for Arsenal Ladies in the past month, two in the Premier League and two in the Uefa Women's Cup. Speaking after the final rubber of the European qualifying stage, she explained why it has been hard for her to adapt back to life with the Club.

"I can't speak for the others but, especially for me, it was mentally tough," said Smith. "Playing in front of all those fans with all the media attention [at the World Cup] and then coming back and playing in front of a couple of hundred people was hard.

"You experience such a high and it's tough to come back here and start playing again. That will come with time as long as we stick together and work hard. We can't beat ourselves up about it and must work through it."

The England star announced her return to the European stage with a goal in the disappointing 3-3 draw with Bardolino on Tuesday night. The striker missed last season's Uefa Women's Cup final through suspension and is aware that another below-par performance will scupper any chance of reaching that stage this time around.

The Ladies squandered a two-goal lead before the 28-year-old rifled home a half-volley five minutes from time.  It looked to have won the game but the Italian champions snatched a point deep into stoppage time.

"I'm not exactly happy even though I got on the scoresheet," said Smith. "It wasn't a good performance tonight and there are a lot of deflated girls in the changing room. Regardless of whether I scored, we didn't get the result and that is what matters at the end of the day.

"We have to go away and look at our own individual performances and ask ourselves, 'did I give it my all and did I play to my best?' It's now time to dig deep, and continue working hard in training and get back into playing on top of our game."

Arsenal's point was enough to secure them top spot in their qualifying group and the holders will now meet tournament debutants Olympique Lyonnais. Lyon came through their group with last season's semi-finalists Brondby IF and Ladies manager Vic Akers believes the French side's inexperience will have little effect on the challenge they will pose. 

"It will be a tough game," he said. "I have always said they will be a side to look out for and if we play anything like we have done tonight then we will undoubtedly get beat."

Smith also acknowledged that the French champions must be respected.

"Like Vic said, if we repeat tonight's performance against Lyon, it could be embarrassing for us. We don't want that because we are the holders of this and we want to retain the trophy."

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 17 Oct 2007