Continental cup group stage matchday two
In my view Lincoln Ladies football club will remember this day in much the same way as the other matches mentioned are remembered by their fans. The day that the rest of women's football sat up and took note. Arsenal have been the bench mark in women's football for the past 15 years and the Lady Imps have never got the better of them. Then ran them close in the FA Cup game at the start of the season but didn't really create many chances. Today they went one better and gained the win.
The Continental Cup is a competition for the 8 sides in the FA Womens Super league. The sides are split into two groups of four teams with the top two sides in each group going through to the semi final stage. Lincoln had been drawn alongside Liverpool, Chelsea, and the holders Arsenal; each side plays the others once. Lincoln had a bit of fortune with the draw as we get to play two home matches (Arsenal and Liverpool) and one away (Chelsea). After the draw its fair to say that most people expected Arsenal to win the group and the other three to fight over the second spot. In matchday one Lincoln scored a good 1-2 away win at Chelsea and Arsenal beat Liverpool away 3-0. All that meant that if Lincoln (or Arsenal) could win today they would claim a semi final spot, so the stakes were high.
There were a couple of reunions on the pitch today. In goal for Arsenal was former Imps keeper Sophie Harris. Lincoln centre back Meaghan Sergeant was signed from Arsenal in the summer. Imps Captain Casey Stoney has also spent time at Arsenal during her career. Casey, who was celebrating her 30th birthday today, was on the bench today so i can only assume that she was carrying a slight knock. In her absence Sophie Walton took the armband and did a great job at captaining the side. I am not sure this Gunners line up had many changes from normal in it, apart from the goalkeeper, but any side that has the quality such as England international Rachel Yankee and Alex Scott in it is going to cause you problems. Arsenal have quality in all departments and a quality squad through out. In short you never get an easy game against them in any competition.
This seemed to wake Lincoln up as we began to attack alot more. In the FA cup match between the sides Lincoln caused the Gunners problems with their set pieces and aerial threat.When Jess Clarke is on form there are very few players in the league that can deal with her and she made several great runs down the Lincoln right. Arsenal then adopted the same tactic as Birmingham did when playing against her. i.e just foul her. Lincoln caused a few problems from the free kicks and corners that she won and it soon became clear that Harris in the Gunners goal wasn't very confident about claiming the ball.
Lincoln looked like they had a decent shout for a penalty of their own when Megan Harris was bundled over in the box when going for a high ball but the ref was unmoved. I thought it was a spot kick but then i would do wouldn't i?
Following another foul on Jess Clarke, Lucy Staniforth sent a killer free kick towards a crowded area which Harris did well to parry out for a corner. From the resulting corner Staniforth again put in a first class delivery which Meaghan Sargeant met with a bullet header from about two yards out to get the Imps back on level terms. The Arsenal keeper ended up in the back of the net along with several other players and appeared to have taken a knock. As she lay on the ground receiving treatment several of the Arsenal players had surrounded the ref and were complaining about the goal and saying it should have been disallowed. Personally i think their skipper Gilly Flaherty took the protest too far and was lucky not to receive a card for dissent (Mouthing off in other words). I think we can deduce that the Arsenal ladies skipper looks to the men's side for advice on how to approach referees.
|Goal! 1-1 and no amount of moaning will change it!|
Even England international full back Alex Smith was struggling against Clarke, and after yet another foul was booked, and not before time if i am honest. From the resulting free kick Staniforth sent the ball in hard and low towards the near post. The ball took a touch off somebody and ended up in the back of the net. My initial reaction was that Rachel Daly got the last touch but it seems to have been given as an own goal. Either way it was 2-1 to Lincoln and the game had turned on its head in 9 minutes.
It was now Arsenal's time to roll up their sleeves and dig in. Although they had been under the cosh for the last twenty minutes or so they didn't panic and showed why they are the benchmark in the women's game. On 36 minutes Arsenal's Steph Houghton picked up a ball from the right, split the Lincoln centre backs, and drilled a low finish past Hobbs in the Lincoln goal. A cool finish under pressure and game on again. That goal seemed to calm the game down a bit as both sides seemed to be content to sit back till halftime. I felt sorry for Nic Hobbs in the Lincoln goal as all she had had to do was save a penalty, take a few goal kicks and pick the ball out of the net twice.
HT 2-2 We made our journey round the the clubhouse end of the ground which Lincoln would be attacking in the second half. Lincoln were out a good 5 minutes or so before Arsenal were and were put through a series of running exercises by the Imps fitness coach.
The second half struggled to live up to the first with Arsenal keeping the Imps at arms length but the Imps back line held firm against the Gunners. Hamiliton had a couple of good chances and runs, but chances were few and far between. Arsenal then took the lead when Kim Little latched onto a through ball, rounded Hobbs on her left hand side, and slid the ball home to give the Arsenal the lead for the second time in the afternoon. Big test coming up for Lincoln here me thinks.
The Imps didn't let their heads drop and upped their game once again. Midfield enforcer Remi Allen burst into the box and was dragged down thus winning a penalty. She dusted herself down and took the penalty and sent Harris the wrong way to level up the scores on 77 minutes. The game was turning into a classic and you couldn't pick a winner. Then in the 90th minute cometh the hour cometh the Imp.
|didnt get the zoom to work in time. Doh|
As normal in a situation like this he added on time seemed to drag but eventually the ref blew up for time and the Lady Imps had done it. They had beaten Arsenal, and thanks to Chelsea's 2-1 win over Liverpool, had booked their place in the semi final.
The upshot of all this is that Lincoln now have 6 points, Arsenal and Chelsea each have 3, with Liverpool on 0, rock bottom of the group and eliminated for the tournament. If Lincoln gain a point at home to Liverpool in the final round of games they will win the group. Arsenal take on Chelsea in a winner takes all clash. However Arsenal do have the better goal difference.
Now that all the men's football has finished there isnt any excuse for not getting yourself down to Ashby Avenue to suport the Lady Imps. Next Sunday they are at home again this time back in League action. The opponents?...Yep you guessed it, good old Arsenal again. Something tells me they will be out for revenge...
Bring it on!!