Arsenal climb to top of group thanks to Vivianne Miedema’s early strike

Vivianne Miedema’s sweet first-half volley provided the colour in a game lacking finesse and quality finishing to steer Arsenal a step closer to progression from the Champions League group stage with a 1-0 defeat of Juventus.

The Women’s Super League and Netherland’s record goalscorer’s contribution ensured Arsenal remained top of Group C, three points ahead of Lyon, who beat FC Zürich 4-0, and five points clear of Juventus.

Jonas Eidevall made one change to the starting XI for the visit of the Italian side, with Leah Williamson back at centre-back in place of Jen Beattie for the first time since Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat of Ajax in qualifying on 28 September.

For Eidevall’s predecessor, Joe Montemurro, the only change also came at the back, with Linda Sembrant taking the place of Martina Rosucci.

Juventus had troubled Arsenal in Turin, with Miedema having to cancel out a second-half goal by her Dutch compatriot Lineth Beerensteyn to earn a point for the injury-hit travellers.

There was an early warning of the threat posed by the Serie A champions, with Williamson miskicking a clearance before Arianna Caruso’s effort was blocked by the foot of goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger and Cristiana Girelli fired the rebound over.

With the chance to lift the pressure to get a result next week against the holder, Lyon, also at the Emirates, the Gunners ramped up the pressure on the visiting side. In the 16th minute the deadlock was broken, with Miedema, who on Saturday scored in her first league start since 16 October, again providing the goal.

Vivianne Miedema is congratulated by her teammates after putting Arsenal 1-0 up against Juventus in the 16th minute. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

The move started from Williamson, wearing the captain’s armband in place of the injured Kim Little. The defender lifted the ball into the run of Stina Blackstenius, who had found space on the right and reached the byline before sending in a cross that Miedema struck first time, sending a rising shot into the far corner.

Miedema spoke before the tie of not being “physically and mentally ready” to play earlier in the season leading to her being given some leave around the international break in November. That rest, which was in part needed because she had Covid during the Euros and struggled with ongoing symptoms, is providing a return now, with goals in consecutive games.

The forward had taken the opportunity to plead with the footballing authorities to do more about the heavy schedule for players at the top level with six international windows in the women’s calendar, two more than the men’s, smaller squad sizes and senior Olympic football rather than Under-23 teams competing. “As a player you want to play in the big tournaments, the difference is we have more international windows in women’s football,” she said. “They need to start listening to us players and not just basing decisions on money or popularity or marketing. We need to try to come to a solution.”

At a bitterly cold Emirates Stadium, where the Gunners are playing all of their Champions League games this season, the second half was a little scrappier than the first.

There was a straight swap at half-time for Juventus, with Barbara Bonansea making way for Valentina Cernoia on the right of the front three. After an hour the Arsenal centre-back Rafaelle Souza made her return from injury coming on in place of Williamson.

Leah Williamson of Arsenal passes whilst under pressure from Lineth Beerensteyn of Juventus.
Leah Williamson (left) captained her side in her first start since September. Photograph: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

With so little to separate the sides and Juventus starting to stretch for the equaliser there were more changes to come. Blackstenius looked off colour, her first touch letting her down time and time again, and she made way for Jordan Nobbs. The change pushed Miedema forward into the No 9 spot she proved so prolific in prior to the arrival of the Swedish striker.

Despite a nervy period of added time the Gunners edged over the finish line. Up next is Lyon, who Eidevall’s side crushed 5-1 in France, before travelling to Zürich for their final match of the group stage.

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