By Max Jones
Arsenal Ladies returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory against Birmingham City at the Autotech Stadium on Sunday.
The Gunners’ task was made easier on the stroke of half-time when former Arsenal forward Freda Ayisi was sent off for two rash challenges, and Chioma Ubogagu made the hosts pay with a composed finish after the restart.
Birmingham responded well to going a goal behind and had the best chance of the second half when Remi Allen rattled Emma Byrne’s crossbar from six yards, but Arsenal defended convincingly to maintain their unbeaten away record in the Women’s Super League this season.
SETTING THE SCENE
Pedro Martinez Losa made three changes to the side that lost 3-1 against Liverpool at Meadow Park last time out.
Emma Mitchell’s return at left back saw Dominique Janssen move into central midfield while Danielle Carter and Carla Humphrey dropped to the bench at the expense of last week’s impressive second-half substitutes, Natalia Pablos Sanchon and Ubogagu.
The Gunners were looking to get back on track after that frustrating evening but faced a tough challenge against a Birmingham side boasting three England World Cup stars in Karen Carney, Jo Potter and Jade Moore.
Losa had spoken about the importance of playing with a much higher tempo in the pre-match build-up, and his side started the game with far more urgency. First Natalia fired just wide following good work from Ubogagu, before the American tested former Gunner Rebecca Spencer with a dipping 20-yard strike.
Natalia was enjoying her freedom up front and nearly found the breakthrough after Spencer had spilled an Ubogagu free-kick, but the goalkeeper recovered to deny the Spain forward and scramble the ball behind.
With half-time looming, Birmingham were reduced to 10 players. Ayisi received her first booking for tripping Natalia, before she crashed into Leah Williamson just 60 seconds later to give Birmingham an uphill battle after the break.
It only took Arsenal eight minutes to make their numerical advantage count. Ubogagu collected a loose ball on the edge of the box and played a quick one-two with Natalia before calmly finishing into the far corner.
Despite the Gunners’ dominance, Birmingham looked dangerous going forward and, just moments after Byrne had to readjust to hold onto Mel Lawley’s deflected strike, the goalkeeper could only watch as Allen volleyed Carney’s pass against the crossbar from six yards.
Arsenal threatened back immediately when Williamson curled inches wide following good work by Carter and Vicky Losada, but one goal proved to be enough to ensure that Losa’s side returned to second place in the Women’s Super League.
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.