Arsenal are firmly in control of their Champions League group as a Lina Hurtig brace saw the Gunners to a 3-1 victory over Zurich at the Emirates on Thursday evening.
Jordan Nobbs marked her first start of the season with a stunning solo strike and Hurtig opened her Arsenal account with a header, before Seraina Piubel netted with 14 minutes remaining to make things interesting.
However, Hurtig put the game beyond doubt minutes later to leave the Gunners as the only side in Group C with maximum points, after Juventus and Lyon drew 1-1 earlier on Thursday evening.
Having stunned reigning champions Lyon last time out in Europe, Jonas Eidevall heavily shuffled his pack against the Swiss outfit with seven changes, handing first starts of the season to four players. It was one of said seven changes who broke the deadlock in the 38th minute after an opening half hour of few clear-cut chances – and in some style.
Steph Catley provided the arcing cross from the left, and Nobbs sent a sumptuous side footed volley into the net off the underside of the bar.
Arsenal doubled their advantage on the stroke of half time – and it was all about Mana Iwabuchi. The effervescent midfielder carved open the opportunity for herself, winning the ball back in the Zurich box and giving her marker the slip with some fabulous feet. Her dinked cross was glanced home by Hurtig.
Piubel should have halved the deficit in the first minute of the second half after a stretching Lotte Wubben-Moy had failed to cut out the through ball and Jen Beattie had come out second best in a 50:50, but the Zurich forward could only drag her effort wide.
Arsenal saw two penalty shouts waved away in the second half after Katie McCabe and Vivianne Miedema were brought down within a matter of minutes of one another – the latter was accidentally punched in the face by Zurich goalkeeper Romero Grzondiel.
Despite the Gunners seeing the lion’s share of possession, Zurich pulled one back to make it interesting with 15 minutes remaining. Piubel emphatically thundered home a volley after being magnificently being picked out by Eleni Markou, triggering scenes of mass delirium from the visitors.
However, hopes of a Zurich comeback were halted just two minutes later as Hurtig netted her second. The winger was quickest to react to tap home from close range after Stina Blackstenius’ strike had been palmed into her path to put the game beyond doubt.
GK: Kaylan Marckese – 6/10 – Spilled a cross in the opening exchanges, held onto a low effort on the cusp of half time.
RB: Noelle Maritz – 6/10 – Got forward frequently, offering the widest option as Mead or Hurtig drifted inside. Rarely tested defensively as Arsenal dominated.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy – 6/10 – Swept up really well at the back, but sliced open by Zurich in the first minute of the second half and was lucky her side didn’t concede. Almost got on the scoresheet following an adventurous foray forward in the second half. Lost the run of Piubel for Zurich’s goal.
CB: Jen Beattie – 6/10 – Drew an early save from Romero Grzondiel with a header. Fortunate not to be punished after losing out in a challenge to Piubel to allow the Zurich forward through on goal. Otherwise largely untested.
LB: Steph Catley (59′ for McCabe) – 7/10 – Back at left back having operated at centre back for Arsenal’s last three. Provided the looping delivery for Arsenal’s opening goal.
CM: Jordan Nobbs – 9/10 – Making her first start of the season and opened the scoring in some style, watching Catley’s cross from the left come down and sending a tremendous side-footed volley in off the underside of the bar. Drove Arsenal forward with her relentless energy.
CM: Kim Little – 8/10 – Operating in the deepest midfield role in place of Lia Walti. Was effective at breaking up play and effortlessly good on the ball.
CM: Mana Iwabuchi (74′ for Blackstenius) – 9/10 – Making her maiden start of the season, showed why she is just such a wonderful player to watch; wriggled out of the tightest of spaces on multiple occasions, immaculate technical ability and displayed her fabulous feet for Arsenal’s second, winning the ball back in the Zurich box, sending two players the wrong way and dinking in a cross for Hurtig to head home.
RW: B*th Mead (59′ for Maanum) – 6/10 – Teed up Miedema with a cheeky back heel in the second half and linked up well with Maritz.
ST: Vivianne Miedema – 6/10 – Saw a goal-bound effort blocked in the second half and unfortunate to not be awarded a penalty after beating Grzondiel to the ball and appearing to be accidentally punched by the Zurich goalkeeper. Beaten by Markou in the build up to the Zurich goal.
LW: Lina Hurtig – 8/10 – Bent an effort from the edge of the box narrowly over the bar having worked the space for herself with some fabulous footwork. Netted Arsenal’s second with a deft header, beating Grzondiel in the air, and was quickest to react to stab home her side’s third.
SUB: Frida Maanum (59′ for Mead) – 6/10
SUB: Katie McCabe (59′ for Catley) – 6/10
SUB: Stina Blackstenius (74′ for Iwabuchi) – 6/10