Arsenal were held by Millwall until the 75th minute before fitness prevailed and they ended up 5-2 winners in the Conti Cup second group game.
Ismael Garcia chose a mixed squad giving a chance to three youngsters and it was a very good learning curve for them in a game ofhigh intensity.
The starting XI was as follows: Moorhouse; Filbey, Rose, Wlliamson; Scott, Nobbs, Janssen, Hinds; James Carter; Mead.
The two sides mirrored each other as they were both in the 3-4-2-1 system.
Bethany Mead opened the scoring with a sixty yards run, coming from a defensive corner She collected the ball in her own half and sprinted towards the edge of Millwall’s penalty area before finishing with a top corner shot (11′) 1-0
Millwall equalized from a corner that was not claimed properly by Anna Moorhouse, the ball bounced around before being headed in by Ellie Mason (20′) 1-1.
The game was every even and flowed with Arsenal trying to put their game into place and Millwall disrupting it while hitting the Gunners on the break.
Because of the similar systems and congestion in the midfield, it was not easy to find space for the forwards. Mead was often dropping deep to add to the congestion. For example, with Miedema or Taylor up front, you would expect them to be around the penalty area and bring other players in.
Arsenal were also not using the width of the pitch enough, with both wing-backs not stretching the Millwall defence. Although, to be fair, the ball was a bit slow to reach them which stopped them having a go at the opposing wing-back.
Jordan Nobbs scored straight from a corner to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead as we were about to reach injury time in the first half (43′).
Overall, it was not a great performance at the half-time break due to Millwall doing well to block Arsenal#s attacking schemes.
There was a change during the break with Louise Quinn coming on for Leah Williamson. She went to the middle centre back position while Jemma Rose switched to left centre-back.
Again the game ebbed and flowed in the second half, with Arsenal unable to get a breakthrough and Millwall threatening from time to time with their front three that had an average age of just over 18.
It was only half a surprise that Millwall got an equaliser through Ella Rutherford who went round Taylor Hinds and put a rocket into the Arsenal top scorer giving Moorhouse no chance 2-2 (69′).
Garcia reacted by sending attacking midfielder, Lisa Evans, on for Anna Filbey and moved Dominique Janssen to centre-back. That reorganisation left the team quite unbalanced in midfield, but it was the right one as Arsenal needed to go for the win.
Nobbs again came to the rescue as Charlie Devlin fouled Taylor Hinds on the wing and the deep free-kick from the Arsenal midfielder went past everyone and ended up in the back of the net 3-2 (74′).
The Arsenal interim manager then sent on Heather O’Reilly at wing-back for the tiring Alex Scott and the American winger had an immediate impact, crossing the ball for Danielle Carter to score from close range to make it 4-2 (78′).
It was clear in the last quarter of the game that the Millwall players were starting to tire after such a high intensity game. Arsenal dominated the end of the game, even adding a fifth goal thanks to a dubious penalty.
Leigh-Anne Robe tried to clear a ball, but completely missed it. Mead arrived late and hit her trailing leg and was given a penalty.
16-year-old Lauren James converted from the spot and scored her first goal for the club in her first start to make it 5-2 (90′).
The game ended with a scoreline that slightly flattered the Arsenal but it was a good experience for the young players.
Millwall played really well and gave a us a very good game.
Arsenal have to thank Jordan Nobbs and Danielle Carter who, as senior players, took the game by the scruff of the neck and showed some great leadership.
The three youngsters did a good job under the circumstances.
Anna Filbey, who is an attacking midfielder played at right centre in a back three, was very steady and calm.
Lauren James was creative, even if she drifted in and out of the game at times. She was composed and strong technically on the ball.
Taylor Hinds, as the left-wing back, enjoyed a very good battle against Megan Wynne, the Millwall right-wing-back. This game certainly gave her the experience needed to carry on improving to try to take Emma Mitchell’s place in the near future.
Anna Moorhouse in goal made a couple of excellent saves but also dropped a few corners.
Jemma Rose and Leah Williamson were also steady in defence.
Dominique Janssen was the only defensively-minded midfielder and was well focused on her main task. It allowed Nobbs to roam freely.
Alex Scott was her usual self and was subbed late in the game as her fitness level do not seem to allow her play 90 minutes at full intensity these days.
Beth Mead put in a good performance with a goal and a penalty won. She is very useful making runs when there was space in front of her, but struggles a bit when facing a team that defends deep and denies her space.
So, it is two wins in two for the Gunners in the FA WSL Conti Cup and a win on Sunday against Reading would guarantee qualification to the knock-out stage.