By Joe Brewin at Meadow ParkArsenal Ladies will head to Sweden with a crucial two-goal cushion after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Gothenburg on Wednesday.Lisa Ek's strike edged the visitors ahead early in the first half but Jordan Nobbs restored parity before the interval. Kim Little fired Arsenal ahead from the penalty spot with 15 minutes remaining and Ellen White sealed the win with a well-taken goal in the closing stages.
Gothenburg may have earned themselves a crucial away goal but this result will do for Laura Harvey and her side after a tight encounter at Meadow Park.Harvey named Alex Scott in midfield after her recent return from Boston Breakers but there was no place for Kelly Smith, who missed out with an ankle injury. Former Gunner Anita Asante lined up for the visitors after sealing her move to the Swedish outfit last week.Harvey’s side were out for goals as they looked to make their home advantage pay, and controlled possession in the opening 10 minutes.
Steph Houghton was a regular threat from right back throughout the first period and almost provided for White after five minutes. But it was Gothenburg who broke the deadlock against the run of play. Marlene Sjoberg was stopped in her tracks illegally on the edge of the penalty area by Niamh Fahey, and Ek converted the resulting free-kick. It was a bitter early blow for Arsenal, and it was the visitors who pushed on in search of a second. Emma Byrne was called into action just five minutes later to deny Sara Linden with a fine save, before Christen Press forced another crucial stop from the Republic of Ireland international. Undeterred, Harvey’s side clawed their way back into the tie. Jayne Ludlow nodded White’s searching cross into the path of Nobbs, who swept home from inside the six-yard box to level the scores.Houghton lashed over from range with 10 minutes of the half remaining as the hosts hunted a vital second.But Kristin Hammarstrom was left largely untested in the opening 45 minutes as Arsenal struggled to convert their possession into goalscoring opportunities.The second half began in much the same vein as the first. Houghton almost found Scott in a fine position inside the box, but the midfielder could not make contact to trouble the keeper.Then came the game’s best opportunity. Striker Press’ fierce cross was fired into the path of Anna Ahlstrand, who somehow cracked the crossbar from a matter of yards. They should have been made to pay minutes later when White finished off Houghton’s goal-bound effort on the line, only for Arsenal to be denied by the official’s flag. Arsenal were struggling to break down a spirited Gothenburg side but they did grab their crucial winner 15 minutes before time when Little converted from the penalty spot after she was fouled inside the area. And the Ladies’ nerves were settled seven minutes from the end when White latched onto Houghton’s ball through the middle and finished coolly past Hammarstrom.
Referee: Teodora Albon (ROU)
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