Manchester City were snubbed of a huge win over Arsenal on Sunday after the visitors netted a last minute equaliser through Tobin Heath.
Keating; Bronze, Houghton (c), Greenwood, Stokes, Walsh, Losada (Weir ’57), Stanway (Coombs ’88), Park, Hemp, Shaw (White ’74)
Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson (Souza ’45), Wubben-Moy, McCabe, Little (c), Maanum (Walti ’63), Nobbs (Blackstenius ’72), Parris (Heath ’63), Miedema, Mead
How it went
The opening moments of the game provided opportunities for both sides but it was Arsenal who gained the first real chance of the tie.
A defensive mix up for the Blues forced Khiara Kheating into an early save in just the ninth minute. More chances came at both ends of the pitch but none were enough to massively trouble either goalkeeper.
The first half continued with neither side able to find the opening goal, despite several good attacks from both teams.
Just four minutes into the second half, Man City almost seized the opportunity to take the lead. Moments after, Vicky Losada’s shot flashed just wide of the post and the visitors launched a counter-attack.
Arsenal No.9 Beth Mead managed to turn Lucy Bronze in the penalty area before unleashing a strike. The shot left Kheating scrambling to make the successful save.Embed from Getty Images
Second half controversy
The following spell was dominated by the Gunners as City battled to get a hold of the game. Despite almost constant pressure, City’s young keeper made several impressive saves to keep her side in the tie. Finally, in the 65th minute, the deadlock was broken as City’s Bunny Shaw found the back of the net.
However, the goal was not without controversy. The ball appeared to strike referee Abigail Byrne as it was passed from Bronze to Demi Stokes in the build up to the goal. With VAR not in use in the WSL, the incident was not reviewed.
This lead to confusion both on and off the pitch. The call going against Arsenal caused manager Jonas Eidevall to get booked for his reaction.
City fans hearts’ would have been racing as the end of the 90 minutes drew in. A scramble in the Arsenal penalty area forced several last ditch stops from Kheating and her defence. The equaliser came just moments later.
Heath found a way past the City backline, bringing the game back level for Arsenal. The leveller brought an almost frantic energy to the dying moments of the game as both sides searched for a late winner. Despite several late chances however, the game finished level with points shared between the two sides.Embed from Getty Images
Post match thoughts
Gareth Taylor expressed his disappointment at conceding the win. Lamenting the chances his team had failed to capitalise on, the City boss did not seem concerned about the refereeing decision that had gifted his team their goal.
He explained that he felt the refereeing errors will even themselves out across the course of the season, and that he was pleased that one of these errors had gone his side’s way.
Taylor then confirmed that his team were not asked to give the ball back to allow their opponents to equalise.
Jonas Eidevall was evidently pleased that his side had managed to get a result from the match. The Swedish coach was clearly frustrated by the error that had cost his team the win. Clearly calmer than he was on the touchline, Eidevall advocated for all WSL referees to be made full time professionals.
Much to Arsenal fans delight, he confirmed that Leah Williamson had not sustained another injury and instead was substituted to protect the defender.
Attendance and Controversy
Despite being arguably one of the headline games of the season, the fixture only had an attendance of about 2,350.
The match being moved to a later kick off to accommodate TV schedules clearly had an impact on crowd numbers.
Previous ties against Arsenal have been almost selling out the City Football Academy’s seated capacity. With late kick offs proving difficult for fans to attend in person, many will have chosen to watch the game from the comfort and warmth of their homes.
As it has so many times this season, the post-match discussion will inevitably turn to the standard of refereeing within the women’s game. While it is easy for fans and players to criticise referees within the league, it’s important to remember that WSL officials typically don’t have the same level of training and resources as their counterparts within the men’s game.
Further examination of the rules relating to the incident left many confused and with differing opinions. While some aspects were clear and precise, others were open to interpretation, leaving the decision to the individual’s judgement.
As such, it makes it almost impossible for the rules to be applied consistently across the league, especially when officials don’t have the benefit of being able to watch replays of the incident.