I think the best way to describe yesterday’s game is an encounter between a tired team and a team still learning to play together. We saw a bit of wrestling and a bit of judo in the middle of this football game. All this mixed with an inadequate referee who lost control and you have the recipe for a strange FA Cup Round 6 tie.
Arsenal had a couple of players on international duty : Byrne and Hoogendjik were already gone while all the England players would report to St Georges Park after the final whistle. Arsenal played in the usual 4-3-3 with Chamberlain, Scott Stoney Williamson Mitchell, Bailey Kinga Smith, Carter Ohno Ayisi. Williamson used at center back rather than in midfield. She has been used on regular basis in defense for the various England teams. Bailey sitting in front of the defense shielding and mopping the ball while Kinga and Smith were free to roam forward. Ohno up front with Ayisi on the wing.
Birmingham used their classical 4-2-3-1 with the same team that started the Champions League against the Gunners. Spencer, Weston Mannion Harrop Carter, Moore Potter, Carney Allen Lawley, Linnett.
Arsenal were vastly improved from the 2 champions league games, there was a lot more fluidity and movement in the passing game. Smith played in her usual playmaker position and distributed the ball and play as well as she could be. The right wing was well used with Scott and Carter regularly combining in attacking position but not with the right quality for the final ball.
Birmingham looked tired and short of sharpness, the long away trips to Sweden and Yeovil in midweek clearly took their energy out and they seemed to lack the 10th of second needed in certain situations to make a good use of the ball or win the ball back.
I also wondered if the grass was not cut enough and too high because the game was very lethargic for the first 30 minutes and passing seem to be short from the beginning of the game. Basically the game woke up when Birmingham opened the score by Remi Allen who seems to enjoy scoring against the Gunners. Birmingham did not enjoy that advantage for a long time as the referee awarded a penalty for a handball by Moore. An awful decision that turned the game and totally contrary to the law of the games :
In Fifa’s Laws of the Game 2005, Law 12 says a free-kick or penalty will be awarded if a player “handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)”. The ball seem to hit Moore’s shoulder and there was absolutely not deliberate intent. When a game it tight and quite even, that kind of decision has a huge impact and the game descended into a lot of ,brutality, kicking and wrestling on every occasion and ended up with both teams complaining constantly and heavily about the referee’s poor handling of the game. Both teams were responsible for this alongside the referee who carried on randomly whistling for fouls and was inconsistent.
Chelsea Weston was not lucky the previous Sunday with a Marta stamp not being punished by the referee and his assistant and did not fare better this time , when she seemed to be elbowed in an off the ball incident in front of the assistant referee and in the line of sight of the 4th referee. The 4th referee should surely take action for off the ball stuff like this.
The game became more opened after the equaliser with both teams getting stretched a bit more and trying to attack in numbers. We reached half time with that 1-1 scoreline. A fair result after the first 45 minutes.
The 2nd half was a mix of football, late fouls, kicking from behind, wrestling, more elbowing in the face and loads of unpunished reprehensible actions due to the 2 teams ‘ frustrations.
Lawley had a great chance early in the 2nd half from a Carney cross but her left footed volley went high. The 2nd Arsenal goal was superb with Carter making a crossfield run to put a superb through ball to Ayisi who finished superbly with a side foot.
The game became opened with Blues trying to equalise and Arsenal trying to catch them on the break. Birmingham created a few half chances but did not manage to have a serious threatening shot for Chamberlain. The last debatable decision by the referee not to award a penalty for a superb o’soto gari on Lawley that was well worth an Ippon was just the icing on the cake on a superb performance.
The WSL quality level is on the up but from what I have seen this season, the refereeing level has not been up to standard. Saying that who can say that the men’s premier league refereeing quality is better, they make the same error of judgement, don’t give yellow and red cards. Just a general refereeing problem.
Overall the best team on the day won and will be playing next Sunday against Chelsea Ladies at Woking. It should be a very interesting contest with Chelsea coming strong this season with their attacking football.
First half video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw5ZpS-1ZLo
Second half video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1-Mc490MQg