Monday 1st May 2023
Kick off 5:45pm
UEFA Women’s Champions League
Semi final second leg
“It’s going to give us the extra boost we hopefully need to go into the final”, reckons Arsenal midfielder Lia Walti, but just how much of a difference will a not just record-breaking crowd, but a sold out at Emirates Stadium make to Arsenal’s hopes of reaching the 2023 Women’s Champions League final?
Arsenal’s mission in Germany eight days ago was always going to be to take something back to North London that the Gunners could work with in the second leg, in the hope that players returning from injury, and a significant home advantage, would help to push Arsenal through after laying the foundations in the first leg.
However, when Rafaelle’s stray pass across her penalty area found Wolfsburg’s Sveindis Jonsdottir, who finished through the legs of Manu Zinsberger to make it 2-0 to the two time European champions at the Volkswagen Arena, Arsenal fans were worrying about just how damaging the first leg result could be. On the pitch, the players rallied and regrouped, and Rafaelle’s bullet header on the stroke of half time dragged Arsenal right back into the tie.
In the second half, Arsenal’s counter attacking strategy was implemented to a tee. Blackstenius worked tirelessly upfront out of possession, Jen Beattie headed everything away at the back and Wolfsburg, and their home crowd, became frustrated. It was then Arsenal’s time to strike as Wubben-Moy’s pinpoint through ball found Pelova on the right. Blackstenius timed her run through the middle perfectly and met Pelova’s low cross practically on the goal-line to equalise, sending the away fans into raptures.
Arsenal’s recovery was perhaps the most impressive of all of their recent comebacks considering the circumstances, taking on a Wolfsburg side that have dominated German football for the last decade and knocked Arsenal out of last year’s Champions League at the quarter final stage. But there was a strong sense that Wolfsburg were far from their best, especially in the second half, and will surely improve after a week analysing the first leg and working on the training pitch.
The contrast in squad depths between the two sides has been heightened by Arsenal’s injury crisis. Wolfsburg have one of the best attacks in Europe according to Jonas Eidevall, but the variety of attacking players that they have at their disposal makes it so effective- it’s a team that can hurt Arsenal in so many different ways. A fully fit Arsenal squad might receive similar compliments, but the reality is that there is little in terms of personnel that Jonas Eidevall can change from the first leg. The Gunners will be banking on sticking to the strategy that brought them success at the Volkswagen Arena, and utilising the home crowd to their advantage.
? Breaking news: The club has confirmed that Arsenal Women have SOLD OUT the Emirates Stadium for the very first time, for their Champions League semi final second leg against Wolfsburg on Monday! @GoonerFanzine ?? https://t.co/oA0A2Y342n— Freddie Cardy (@CardyFreddie) April 30, 2023
Arsenal were hoping for the return of both Caitlin Foord and Lina Hurtig for the second leg, but Foord remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. Hurtig, who hit a brace against Zurich at the Emirates in the group stage, is available for selection, whilst Wolfsburg will enjoy the huge boost of having Germany captain and current Bundesliga top scorer Alex Popp back from injury, with Lena Lattwein and Katarzyna Kiedrzynek the only absences.
With the away goals rule a thing of the past, extra time and penalties will be needed to decide which team takes on Barcelona in the final in Eindhoven if the two sides cannot be separated after ninety minutes.
The largest UEFA Women’s Champions League crowd in the UK, the highest attendance for a women’s club match in England, and the first time that Arsenal Women have sold out the Emirates Stadium. It’s now time for the players to do the talking in front of a picture perfect backdrop of red and white, and if you cannot join us at the Emirates then make sure to follow all of the action with the Gooner’s live blog and player ratings this evening.