ack on track. Having been humbled at the fleet, flurrying feet of defending champions Barcelona in their Women’s Champions League opener, Arsenal bounced back with a composed performance to survive the test of Hoffenheim with a 4-0 victory at Meadow Park.
Arsenal, unbeaten domestically in the Women’s Super League (WSL), had been given an education by the Catalan club last week, but were much better back on home turf, surviving a tough test against a well-constructed, lively side to reset their European campaign.
The scoreline was harsh on the visitors, who for much of the game gave their hosts and will rue their failure to capitalise both on an equality of possession and a squall of second-half chances.
Having seen how Barcelona’s press and harrying dismantled Arsenal’s possession game, Hoffenheim employed similar early tactics and were again able to disrupt the home side’s passing in a first half of reasonably few clear openings.
However where Barcelona had forced errors Arsenal appeared more composed as they enjoyed the comforts of home, keeping the visitors at arm’s length in an even first and producing two incisions.
The first goal eventually came from the penalty spot. Beth Mead’s pointed toe nudged a bouncing ball beyond the swinging leg of Michaela Specht, which collided with the Arsenal forward. Referee Stephanie Frappart whistled; captain Kim Little stepped up and found the corner from 12 yards.
Moments before half-time Arsenal doubled their lead. Fine build-up work moved the ball out to the left touchline, with a cross hoisted into the box. Vivianne Miedema provided a lovely cushioned header for teammate Tobin Heath, darting beyond the last defender and firing home from close-range.
Soon after half-time it was the turn of Miedema, poaching in trademark fashion after a Jordan Nobbs drive had been saved, spooning a ball hopping about like an anxious frog home from a metre-or-so.
Hoffenheim’s best spell came midway through the second period after conceding a third, forcing goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger to make a succession of superb saves, with Katie McCabe further forced to intervene off her own line after a corner.
Despite his side’s healthy advantage, Jonas Eidevall grew frustrated as Hoffenheim, with referee Stephanie Frappart cautioning the Arsenal manager after he had been incensed by her failure to act on a challenge of questionable legality on Noelle Martiz.
Yet the German side could not convert any of their chances, and Arsenal added a fourth five minutes from time.A vicious whipped corner from McCabe cannoned against the head of Leah Williamson, who thumped her header into the top corner.
It sealed a much-needed reset of continental form for Arsenal, who next face HB Køge in a month. The Danish side were beaten 2-0 by a dominant, but wasteful, Barcelona in round two of group stage action.