By Lloyd Webb
Arsenal Ladies were held to a goalless draw by Sunderland Ladies in their opening game of the WSL Spring Series.
While the Gunners monopolised possession, the hosts had the best chance of the first half when Dominique Bruinenberg's close-range header tested Sari van Veenendaal.
Danielle van de Donk, Katie McCabe and Heather O’Reilly all came close after the break, but the visitors were unable to find a winner despite their domination.
SETTING THE SCENE
Pedro Martinez Losa handed academy product Anna Patten her first start in central defence, while off-season signing O’Reilly made her league debut.
Leah Williamson, Kim Little and Emma Mitchell all missed out due to injury, but captain Alex Scott returned to the starting XI following a setback on international duty.
Jordan Nobbs started in midfield against her former club, while ex-Sunderland striker Beth Mead was among the substitutes.
The Gunners were in the ascendancy from the get go, forcing Sunderland to soak up pressure and play on the counter attack.
The hosts soon won a free-kick out wide which saw Bruinenberg direct a header on goal, but Van Veenendaal managed to claw it away from close range.
Arsenal weren’t able to truly test goalkeeper Anke Preuss as the Lady Black Cats’ defence restricted the visitors to shots from outside the box.
Losa’s side were on the offensive after the restart and almost took the lead after O’Reilly’s fine footwork, but the midfielder dragged a low drive wide.
Bruinenberg tested her fellow countryman Van Veenendaal again moments later, but the goalkeeper was able to tip the midfielder’s stinging effort over the bar.
The woodwork denied Van de Donk minutes before the hour mark, but the referee had already blown her whistle for an earlier foul.
Arsenal continued to apply pressure, but Sunderland’s resolute defending meant Losa’s side had to settle for a point in their Spring Series opener.
Referee: Rebecca Welch
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