Laia Aleixandri scored and Khiara Keating produced a string of excellent saves as Manchester City edged past Arsenal in the FA Cup. The Spaniard struck in the 74th minute to put City in front, but it was up to youngster Keating to keep the Gunners at bay as the home side pushed to send the tie to extra time.
The match was the first meeting between the two sides since their famous clash in November, which saw Keating’s mistake punished with an Arsenal winner, before managers Gareth Taylor and Jonas Eidevall entered into a war of words, with Taylor calling the Arsenal boss a bully. Eidevall retaliated by labelling the comments as ‘borderline slander,’ with both men refusing to back down over their comments.
Indeed, Eidevall was seen on many occasions engaged in conversation with the fourth official, particularly when things weren’t going so well for his team in a first half which City dominated. The blues penned the Gunners back in their own half for much of the first 45, but couldn’t make the breakthrough.
Lauren Hemp was her usual bustling self while Jess Park filled in amicably for the injured Jill Roord. While Park doesn’t quite offer the same as Roord, her energy and persistence in the middle of the field was just what City needed. And her performance in front of England manager Sarina Wiegman will have done her England chances no harm whatsoever.
Hemp had a busy afternoon and had a coming together with Arsenal’s Katie McCabe in the first half. As Hemp shielded the ball out of play, McCabe’s frustrations grew as she shoved the City Lioness to the floor. Hemp laughed it off, but McCabe seemed to want to make something further of it until Hemp gave a little shove back which saw McCabe land on her arse.
City could, and perhaps should, have had a penalty when Shaw was caught in the face inside the area in the first half, but the referee waved away any appeals, with Park firing over. It was probably the best chance of the first half as both teams cancelled each other out.
Arsenal came out fighting in the second half and were more threatening towards the City goal. However, it was the blues who came closest to opening the scoring. Bunny Shaw rose highest from a City corner to power a header that looked destined for the back of the goal, only for the Arsenal keeper to pull off a tremendous save. Seconds later from another Corner, Shaw headed across goal which was cleared before the blues could profit.
But the breakthrough came in the 74th minute and it was a goal made fully of Arsenal’s own undoing. A cynical foul gave City a free kick and the ball into the box wasn’t dealt with. Aleixandri was first to react and she poked home from close range to give City the lead.
The goal led to an Arsenal onslaught that saw Keating demonstrate why she is keeping both Ellie Roebuck and Sandy MacIver out of the side. Some excellent saves prevented Kim Little, Victoria Pelova and Stina Blackstenius out to preserve City’s lead and fully make up for her error in November.
However, there was a moment in the closing minutes when Arsenal thought they’d levelled. After all her hard work, Keating almost gifted the Gunners a goal by fumbling the ball which the Gunners claimed to have crossed the line. However, without goal-line technology, it was impossible to say if the whole of the ball cleared the line and Arsenal appeals went in vain.
Six minutes of injury time turned into eight, but not even that could save the Gunners, and as the final whistle went, City’s incredible run of nine straight wins turned into ten as they progressed into the last eight.
Final Score: Arsenal Women 0-1 Manchester City Women.