Arsenal Ladies Centre of Excellence u17 team won their cup tie away to Birmingham City by three goals to two on Saturday. Jess Ngunga, Laura Hooper and Anna Filbey were the goalscorers in a game played in extremely windy conditions.
Arsenal started the game playing with the wind pushing their way, but conceded straight from the start with Birmingham’s first attack. Attacking the left side of Arsenal defence, the Blues scored from a tight angle. It was an unusual start for a side that have scored 54 times in the league and conceded just twice.
From the very start of the game, Arsenal were pushing high and winning the ball in the middle third, as well as in the opposition third, on regular basis. Many chances were created and it was no surprise that one of those ended up in the back of the net. Halfway through, Jess Ngunga found the top corner from 20 yards out. The attacking pair of Ngunga and Hinds were creating a lot of problems for the Blues’ defence.
It has to be noted that, despite being under pressure, Birmingham tried to build up play from the back rather than punt the ball forward in hope, like many poorer sides would do. Credit has to be given to them for playing football the right way. At the end of the day, the priority is to develop the players so that they are ready for first team football. Winning trophies at this level is good but it does not guarantee that players will make it in the first team.
Arsenal continued to press high and attack in numbers, but were at times caught in defensive transtions; with five or six players in front of the ball, the defenders were left on their own to deal with Birmingham’s counter-attacks. We saw multiple times during the game that, when Birmingham managed to break Arsenal’s pressing, they were free to launch counter-attacks with a lot of space and time.
The attacking intentions of Arsenal were rewarded with their second goal from the captain Laura Hooper, whose style is very similar to Frank Lampard. She got at the end of a second ball after a run from midfield and finished with an acrobatic effort from 13 yards. Half-time and Arsenal had a 2-1 lead.
The second half started with Birmingham playing with the wind behind them. Arsenal made a couple of changes with Hinds dropping from center-forward to left-back to defend the lead. The Blues came out a little more from the restart, but Arsenal were still trying to apply pressure fairly high up the pitch to win the ball.
The game was quite even from the restart until the Blues got a free-kick about 30 yards from the Arsenal goal. The shot went straight under the crossbar with no chance for the goalkeeper and the game was tied at 2-2.
Arsenal went back into full attacking mode and won themselves a free kick 25 yards from the goal. Anna Filbey took it and it went in the top right corner, giving absolutely no chacne to the Birmingham keeper. This ended up being the winner and Arsenal were through to the quarter-finals.
The quarter-final draw will be made later in the season and Arsenal could meet: Blackburn, Everton or Brighton, Middlesex FA, Leeds or Manchester United, Liverpool, Sheffield United and Stoke City.
Next for the u17 side is Millwall away in the League and then the tri-nations tournament played in Germany for the six players called up: Amelia Houghton-Boyle, Anna Patten, Taylor Hinds, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Laura Hooper and Anna Filbey.