Arsenal ensured the destination of the WSL trophy would be decided on the final day of the season, with Tottenham’s 3-0 loss at the Emirates Stadium keeping them in contention for the title.
A fourth-minute strike from influential striker Beth Mead and two second-half goals from Caitlin Foord brought the Gunners within one point of league leaders Chelsea with a game to play.
In the eight competitive matches played between the two teams since Tottenham were promoted to the WSL in 2019, Arsenal have won seven times (including a League Cup penalty shoot-out win) and lost none. , with the only draw between them being reversed. see you in November. In those eight games, Arsenal scored 29 goals and conceded just five.
The Gunners’ draw with Tottenham in November, with striker Vivianne Miedema’s stoppage time equalizer needed to deny the home side three points at the Hive, signaled the gap is narrowing between the heavyweights of the women’s football and their north London rivals.
After a blistering start to the season, the two points dropped at the Hive was the first blemish on an immaculate league campaign for the Gunners.
After that game, Tottenham manager Rehanne Skinner said Arsenal and England centre-back Leah Williamson told him Spurs’ progress made it “a real North London derby”.
Keen to capitalize on the budding competitiveness between the two teams, Arsenal arranged for the game to be played at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday 26 March. The postponement then due to a Covid outbreak at Tottenham was frustrating, as the game was moved from a main weekend slot to Wednesday evening. Turnout was impacted, with half of the lower open tier grossly undercapacitated.
Within four minutes, however, those who showed up were treated to a first WSL North London derby goal at the Emirates. A deliberate pass from Williamson was blocked by Mead who ran into the box, moved the ball to his left foot and shot low past Tinja-Riikka Korpela.
In the build-up, Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall had pointed to the potential for a deadly tie. “When you look at it statistically,” he said. “We are the team with the most ball in play in the WSL, Spurs are second last in that metric. One team wants the ball in play and the other doesn’t. When we played them in November , there were 22 Spurs fouls while we are rarely above 10 fouls.
“They are a physical and courageous team that we will play against and who will try to pick up the tempo of the game and they are very good at doing that. I respect them for that, we want to showcase our football and create and have the ball in play. It will be exciting to see which style wins the game.
He wasn’t wrong. By half-time, Spurs had conceded eight fouls to Arsenal’s, with midfielder Maeva Clemaron and striker Rachel Williams, goalscorer in Tottenham’s opener in November, particularly tough at tackle.
Shortly after Mead’s first goal, Spurs came frighteningly close to an equalizer as the ball circled around the Arsenal box before Mead blocked Kyah Simon’s effort and Miedema cleared the line from the Australian shortly after.
Simon, who received a yellow card, was hung at half-time in favor of Finland midfielder Eveliina Summanen, who took just 15 minutes to get into the book herself.
In the second half the story was similar, with Arsenal controlling possession and pushing for a second but struggling to break through the organized whiteshirt banks.
In the 71st minute, they finally won. Miedema’s short corner to Mead was returned to the Dutch striker whose shot was saved by Korpela’s foot only for Foord to drive in at the far post.
Less than 10 minutes later it was three as Miedema clipped the ball to Mead, who did the same with Foord waiting to his left, and the Australian forward took a throw-in before curling the ball into the top corner.
Spurs were lucky to take solace from the penalty spot in added time as Angela Addison fell, softly, into the box under pressure from defender Lotte Wubben-Moy, but Addison’s penalty returned from the amount.
Arsenal’s hope of dethroning defending champions Chelsea remains alive, just. The Gunners are due to win at West Ham on Sunday lunchtime and will be hoping Manchester United can deny Chelsea victory at Kingsmeadow to send the trophy north across the river.