Arsenal survive late onslaught from bottom-placed Birmingham to extend lead at top of table

Arsenal 4 Birmingham 2

Arsenal survived a late onslaught from bottom-placed Birmingham to expand their lead at the top of the table to eight points.

Relegation looks almost a certainty for the Midlands side, as they remain eight points adrift of safety with just six matches left to play, while Arsenal continued to do everything in their power to fend off defending champions Chelsea, who despite trailing still have three games in hand.

Brazil international Rafaelle got her first goal for Arsenal, and Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema added to the tally to put the home side three goals ahead and fully in control with 20 minutes to go. 

They settled into a second-half lull, with Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall making four changes as his team looked to be cruising to victory, only for opportunistic goals from Lucy Quinn and Libby Smith to frighten the life back into his backline.

It was Arsenal’s sloppy passing that let Birmingham back into the match and granted them a burst of energy for the last 15 minutes, but they ultimately fell short as substitute Caitlin Foord’s stoppage time-goal sealed the 4-2 win for the home side.

“I think for a minute in that second half we just wanted the game to end, we didn’t want to play anymore,” Eidevall said post-match. “That’s not the right way to go about it… you have to play with an attacking mindset and be brave, and I’m really happy we got back to that to score the fourth goal. That’s a big takeaway. Apart from the goals we conceded it was a much much better and controlled performance.”

The scoreline belied the fact that this match was no thriller. For over an hour Birmingham were completely outclassed by Arsenal, the polar opposite to the reverse fixture in January, where Arsenal suffered a shock end to their unbeaten record at their hands.

On that day Arsenal looked second-best as they were beaten on the counter-attack, but the gulf between them and long-suffering Birmingham at Meadow Park on Sunday was clear to see. The visitors posed barely a threat until Quinn and Smith caught goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger and her defenders sleeping. Apart from that 10-minute lapse, Arsenal looked at their best and this win – plus their 4-0 midweek victory over Reading – kept up a good run of momentum to duly pass the pressure back onto Chelsea in this title race. 

In a day of milestones for Arsenal, with Mead scoring her 50th goal for the club and Jordan Nobbs coming onto the pitch for her 250th Arsenal appearance, Miedema’s first half goal – which she bundled over the line – made history. It was her 70th in the WSL, and saw her become the first player to reach 100 goal contributions in the league, a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact she has done it in just 83 matches.

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