It took a stunning strike from Dutch record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema to give the Gunners a narrow win at home to Everton, but the scoreline made the league meeting look far less comfortable than it ultimately was.
“I felt OK until the last five minutes,” said Arsenal’s manager, Jonas Eidevall. “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t put the game to rest because we had chances to do it.”
Despite the utter dominance of the home team in this fixture, with the Gunners having won the past 13 games against Everton, scoring 36 and conceding six, number 14 (which would be the longest winning run of one team over another in the WSL) was not a foregone conclusion.
Everton are a renewed force under Brian Sørensen and while it is taking time to show in their results, the fledgling signs of growth are there.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fell to a first league defeat last time out in the WSL, losing 3-2 to Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium and ending an 18-game unbeaten run and 14-game winning streak.
“Winning is strong for the team,” said Eidevall when asked how important the result was. “We see a team here in an adverse moment that we are hopefully on the verge of turning around with players returning, but I think we have been managing a difficult period so far very well, and that’s important if you want to build a winning team.”
For Sørensen, it was a sign of growth that they held Arsenal to one goal for so long. “It’s probably where we are,” he said. “They are a really good team and we had a chance to go away with a point but we weren’t sharp enough.”
Against United the absence of Kim Little, who picked up an MCL injury in Arsenal’s defeat of West Ham in October, felt like one too many. She joined Lina Hurtig, Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza and Teyah Goldie in the treatment room, while Beth Mead ruptured her ACL in the team’s first loss of the season to join them.
It was a welcome sight for Arsenal fans then, to see influential centre-back duo Williamson and Souza back in the matchday squad for the visit of the Merseyside team, who themselves could recall Nicoline Sørensen to the squad for the first time since her ACL injury.
The Gunners dominated from the off, as they have so consistently this season, but they lacked bite up top, giving Everton hope when they got rare opportunities on the counterattack. The fluid formation of the Toffees would see them drop into a back five whenever Arsenal pushed towards the final third, meaning options were limited. Despite being in control, after 20 minutes each team only had one shot apiece, with neither on target.
It needed something special and then it happened. Miedema, making her first league start since Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat of Reading on 16 October, and having benefited from a rest over the international break, collected from Caitlin Foord who, with her back to goal, shielded the ball into the feet of the WSL record goalscorer. Miedema cut onto her right foot before lashing into the top far corner.
Arsenal should have doubled their lead in the second half, when goalkeeper Emily Ramsey, on loan from Manchester United, pulled off an impressive double save to deny Miedema before being beaten by a third consecutive effort only for a blue shirt to clear off the line.
With 20 minutes remaining Williamson would enter the fray in place of Jen Beattie and instantly blasted the ball clear to the delight of the home crowd.