Arsenal made a dream start to the Women’s Champions League group stage by destroying reigning European champions Lyon in their worst ever defeat in the competition.
Lyon have won the Champions League in six out of the last seven years and crushed Barcelona in last year’s final. And even though the French giants came into this game plagued by injuries – including to Ada Hegerberg – their starting XI was still legitimately stuffed with world class stars.
Arsenal also had the significant challenge of taking on the competition’s record winners without preferred starting centre-backs Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza. Jonas Eidevall also made the decision to bench Vivianne Miedema in favour of extra midfield stability from Frida Maanum.
It was a relatively even game in terms of possession and chances, but Arsenal were far more clinical and had the lead only 13 minutes in when Ballon d’Or runner-up B*th Mead set up Caitlin Foord in the centre of the penalty area.
Maanum justified her inclusion inside 25 minutes when she doubled the lead on a rebound from a Stina Blackstenius shot, which proved crucial because Lyon almost immediately hit back through Melvine Malard from a corner.
Even the most ardent Arsenal fans couldn’t have foreseen how the Gunners then managed to pull away, with Mead scoring a sweet free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Any chance of a Lyon fightback was ended midway through the second half when Foord and Mead each got their second of the match to score Arsenal’s fourth and fifth respectively.
Lyon won’t have been pleased with the fourth, a woeful cross-field pass from Wendie Renard intercepted by Foord, with the Australian effortlessly stroking in from distance. Maanum’s assist to Mead again vindicated her place in the team, picking up a loose ball and feeding Mead.
For more from Jamie Spencer, follow him on Twitter and Facebook!