By Max Jones at Meadow Park
Arsenal Ladies began their Continental Cup campaign with a comprehensive victory against Watford at Meadow Park on Thursday.
Leah Williamson and Chloe Kelly struck early on and Rachel Yankey added a third as the Gunners stormed into a three-goal lead before the break.
Summer signing Sari van Veenendaal then proved her worth after half-time to deny Stacie Donnelly from close range and maintain the Gunners’ momentum ahead of the visit of Notts County in the Women’s Super League on Sunday.
SETTING THE SCENE
Pedro Martinez Losa made six changes to the side that beat Birmingham City on Sunday, as he named a youthful side for Arsenal’s Continental Cup opener.
Van Veenendaal made her first start since joining the Gunners at the start of the month, while Lotte Wubben-Moy made her first-team debut, playing alongside fellow teenagers Carla Humphrey and Kelly.
Elsewhere Yankey returned from a back injury to captain the side from left wing, in favour of Natalia Pablos Sanchon, while Jade Bailey replaced Vicky Losada, who had limped off at the weekend.
Despite Watford’s fast start, it was Arsenal who took the lead. Danielle Carter sped past her marker on the right-hand side and pulled back to Williamson, who arrowed a powerful strike into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Losa’s side doubled their lead minutes later. Carter found space on the wing once more and crossed for Kelly to head home from close range on her full first-team debut.
Watford were struggling to contain Arsenal’s forwards during a dominant first-half showing and, after Phoebe Read handled inside the box, Yankey had the simple task of slotting into the bottom corner from the penalty spot as the Gunners sailed into a comfortable half-time lead.
Arsenal restarted the game with the same intensity and could have scored a fourth when Humphrey connected with a loose ball in the box, but the forward lashed her powerful drive over from close range.
Dominique Janssen then powered over from range before Carter was halted by a last-ditch tackle as the Gunners came so close to extending their lead on the hour mark.
Watford had one final chance to pull one back but Van Veenendaal produced a superb reaction save to deny Donnelly from close range and claim her first clean sheet in an Arsenal shirt at the end of a satisfying evening for Losa’s side.
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