By Declan Taylor
Arsenal Ladies face Umea IK in the first leg of their Uefa Cup Quarter Final tonight as they bid to banish the painful memories of last season’s disappointing exit.
Vic Akers’ side overcame tonight’s opponents to lift the Uefa Cup two seasons ago but their reign as European Champions was cut short at the quarter final stage last term by Lyon. After a goalless draw in France, Arsenal were narrowly beaten 3-2 in torrential rain at Meadow Park but Akers believes that his side can learn their lesson from that disappointment.
“It was probably the worst night of the year in terms of playing football,” The manager told Arsenal.com. “It was horrific in terms of the weather conditions, it rained all day and all night and at the end of the day we lost because we had to chase the game.
“Having gone and got a good draw out there, we came back here and went a goal down, but we equalised and then got in front. We didn't hold on to it long enough in the end and I'm sure that is the thing we can learn and take note of. If it happens again we will make sure that we hold on to it.”
Like Arsenal, Umea are untouchable domestically and they qualified from Group B2 in emphatic fashion winning their three games, scoring 15 goals in the process.
The jewel in the Swedish champions’ crown is Brazilian icon Marta, widely regarded as the best player in women’s football, and Akers is well aware of just how big a threat her and her teammates can pose.
“We had a problem with them two years ago in the final and they are the same team that they are now,” he continued. “They are still a great side and one to be wary of. To be honest with you, they are a team we would like to miss but we have to play them at some point so why not now?”
“You always have to take positives from a side that you have beaten and they won’t be quite as confident coming to us.”
In that cup-winning final against Umea, it was a 0-0 and a 1-0 that did the damage to the Swedes but Akers will be hoping that his free-scoring side are able to rack up a decent advantage in their home leg.
"We can only play one way with respect,” he said. “We are a very offensive team and we always have been. We will try to score goals and if it doesn’t come off we will hold our hands up. We are looking for a one or two goal advantage and if we manage that we have got a real chance in the next leg.
“Going out there will be difficult. It will be winter, it is an astro turf pitch out there and there will be probably be snow out there at some point.”
Last season it was the result in the home leg that ultimately cost Arsenal Ladies a place in the last four. Although nothing can be decided tonight, a positive result against Umea at Broughinge Park would certainly make the task in Sweden a less daunting one.
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