WSL: Arsenal snub Spurs in front of 60,000 strong Emirates crowd

The LED screen at Emirates Stadium displays the match attendance of 60,050 during the WSL match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur
The LED screen at Emirates Stadium displays the match attendance of 60,050 during the WSL match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur on March 3, 2024. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Arsenal claimed a vital win over Tottenham Hotspur in the North London Derby to move within three points of Women’s Super League leaders Manchester City on Sunday. A total of 60,050 fans packed out the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal recorded another sell-out fixture.

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall made a big change in goal. Manuela Zinsberger started in place of Sabrina D’Angelo, who is on Gold Cup duty with Canada.

There was also a start for Caitlin Foord as she replaced Stina Blacktenius, having helped the Matildas to Olympic qualification this week.

Vivianne Miedema is out following the announcement that she’ll require minor surgery on a knee injury. She will be out of action for several weeks.

Spurs boss Robert Vilahamn made three changes to the side that lost at home to Aston Villa a fortnight ago. Goalkeeper Barbora Votíkivá, the hero in Tottenham’s win over Arsenal in December, missed out to Becky Spencer. Ashleigh Neville came in for Charli Grant after recovering from an ankle injury.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was captain Beth England having to settle for a place on the bench as Jess Naz came into the starting 11.

A tough North London Derby

Willed on by a packed out Emirates Stadium, Arsenal set about suffocating their North London rivals from the very first whistle, winning a flurry of early corners. Alessia Russo may well have given Arsenal an early lead through one of those corners as she lost her marker at the back post but could only shoot wide.

For all of the Gunners’ dominance in the opening 10 minutes, there were still signs that Spurs would look to exploit the counter when possible. Martha Thomas had the first attempt of note for the visitors. She did well down the right to cut in and sting the palms of Zinsberger, who gathered the second attempt.

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In fact, Tottenham went closest of the two sides to opening the scoring as Naz had a curling effort tipped on the bar with 25 minutes played.

The Gunners were soon back in the ascendancy. Another chance for Russo was deflected into the path of Foord, who was penalised for handball as she lost her balance in the box.

Tottenham were organised and compact. They largely frustrated Arsenal, who couldn’t get a telling touch or often overplayed in front of the Spurs’ goal.

Victoria Pelova was next to try her luck, but her shot was comfortable for Becky Spencer as we approached half-time.

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There was still time for Grace Clinton to fire towards goal, but again, Zinsberger wasn’t overly troubled by her effort.

Referee Abigail Byrne signalled the end of the first half and a job well done for Vilahamn’s Spurs. His fellow Swede Eidevall perhaps feared another frustrating afternoon.

Arsenal triumph at the Emirates

However, just four minutes into the second half, Arsenal finally made the breakthrough courtesy of Russo. It was an opening created by a wonderful switch of play from Kim Little to Beth Mead on the right hand side. 

Amanda Nildén could only poke the ball into Russo’s path as she tried to intervene, leaving the England forward to smash home and send the Emirates crazy.

If that was the cue for the opening of the floodgates for Arsenal, it never materialised. 

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A clever free kick between Little, Catley and Mead was well dealt with by Spencer as she punched away with nearly an hour gone.

Little had a great chance to test Spencer when the space opened up in front of her. However, she opted to go wide rather than shoot and the chance was gone.

Arsenal seemed content to control the ball, something they did with relative ease, but without looking  too ominous in attack.

Things did heat up with just over 10 minutes to play, thanks to a spate of yellow cards and free-kicks. McCabe, Summanen and Spence all found their way into the referee’s book within minutes of each other.

Spencer nearly played herself into trouble with 10 minutes left as her short pass was intercepted by Blacktenius. But the Spurs stopper redeemed herself to save smartly from the Swede at her near post.

With the game entering injury time, Arsenal were nearly made to pay for their profligacy when England glanced Matilda Vinberg’s cross just wide.

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Grace Clinton squandered a final chance for Spurs as they pushed for a late equaliser. She pulled the ball back for the incoming Amy James-Turner, only to see the chance snuffed out by a great tackle from Kyra Cooney-Cross.

An uneventful second half drew to a close to the familiar Emirates cry of ‘one nil to the Arsenal’. Their win keeps them hot on the heels of Manchester City and Chelsea in this thrilling WSL title race.

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