We made a solid start to our 2023/24 campaign with a 3-0 win in the UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifiers.
Goals from Caitlin Foord, Lina Hurtig and Stina Blackstenius saw us defeat Linkoping on home turf and progress to Saturday’s final.
The match saw three debuts for our summer signings as Alessia Russo started up top, alongside Cloe Lacasse on the wing and Amanda Ilestedt at centre-back.
After a fire alarm delayed kick-off by fifteen minutes, our Champions League qualifier eventually got underway and our Gunners didn't take long to make a statement.
We earned a penalty just six minutes into the game after the referee judged that the ball was handled inside the area but Kim Little’s spot kick was well-saved by Andersson.
Linkoping sat deep and routinely tried to counter with long balls over the top but our backline managed to clear the danger with relatively little fanfare.
All of our debutants looked sharp from the off. Lacasse started brightly down the right wing, cutting inside and linking up well with Noelle Maritz as our right-sided fullback.
Russo, meanwhile, showed her stellar ability to hold the ball up under pressure, alongside a number of promising off-the-ball runs.
The Gunners grew into the half and continued to probe the hosts’ penalty area, with our skipper coming close to hitting the target twice with quality low drives from outside the area.
Frida Maanum’s controlled, curling effort was the best chance of the opening 45 minutes, forcing Linkoping’s keeper to put behind for a corner.
Fresh from a World Cup campaign that saw her score four times for Sweden, Ilestedt came incredibly close to opening the scoring with a close-range looping header.
Caitlin Foord was the player to ultimately give us the lead in the 53rd minute, following a spell of superb footwork from Little in the penalty area.
Former Linkoping players Stina Blackstenius and Lina Hurtig joined the fray at the hour mark, as we looked to build on our one-goal cushion.
The Swedish side were determined to stay in the game, however, and Manuela Zinsberger was forced to make an excellent save from a Linkoping free-kick.
It was down to the Swedish substitutes Hurtig and Blackstenius to put the game to bed with two goals inside the final ten minutes to take us through to the final on Saturday.
What it means
We'll now play in Saturday's final against the winner of the Paris FC v FC Kryvbas semi-final later this evening.
Victory on Saturday will see us progress to round 2 of qualifying in October.
Arsenal Starting XI: Zinsberger (GK), Maritz (Catley, 60), Wubben-Moy, Ilestedt, McCabe, Walti, Little (Pelova, 72), Maanum (Beattie, 82), Lacasse (Hurtig, 60), Foord, Russo (Blackstenius, 60)
Subs: D'Angelo (GK), Williams (GK), Kuhl, Mead, Lia
Linkoping Starting XI: Andersson, Lennartsson, Ostlund, Karlsson (Beard, 19), Lennartsson, De Jongh, Takarada, Momiki, Selerud, Tandberg, Kapocs
Subs: Wiklund (GK), Lovisa (GK), Elofsson, Svedberg, Ozdemir, Saving, Lundin, Abam, Bjork, Brenn
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