A stunning second-half comeback from Arsenal saw them claim a 6-2 win at Leicester, having trailed 2-0 to the Foxes at half-time.
If ever a game has epitomised the cliché of ‘a game of two halves’, the seven-goal thriller at the King Power was it.
The Gunners were stunned in the first half as Sam Tierney (36) and Janice Cayman (38) scored within 54 seconds of one another to see Leicester into a shock – and deserved – first-half lead.
It was the first time the Foxes have ever scored against Arsenal in the WSL, and only their second and third goals in the first 45 minutes of a league game this season.
But for all of their positives, Leicester were dismantled by a fired-up Gunners, who needed just 11 and a half minutes to flip the game completely on its head.
Cloé Lacasse began the comeback (49), followed shortly by another goal from Alessia Russo, who has now scored six goals against Leicester in all competitions.
Being level in such a short space of time was impressive enough, but the Gunners were not done there. Caitlin Foord (58) and Victoria Pelova (60) quickly made it 4-2, with Stina Blackstenius (75) and Lina Hurtig (90+8) adding the final touches from the bench.
It was some way to mark Jonas Eidevall’s 50th WSL game in charge of Arsenal, registering his 36th win. The victory sees the Gunners into second, three points behind Chelsea. Leicester are now in seventh with seven points.
How Arsenal hit Leicester for six
It was an even opening half-hour, but Arsenal should have gone ahead in the 32nd minute. A poor attempted pass from Janina Leitzig was picked up by Pelova, but despite the goalkeeper being left in no-man’s land, the Arsenal forward could only lift her shot just past the post.
At the other end, Lotte Wubben-Moy needed to be alert as Deanne Rose – making her first WSL start of the season – was threaded through. But the Arsenal’s defender’s last-gasp challenge saw the ball away.
But soon after, Leicester took the lead. It came from a corner, which Lena Petermann headed on towards the back post. She found Tierney, who just stepped off Wubben-Moy to nod home.
A minute later – and sandwiched either side of a chance for Frida Maanum – the Foxes added their second. Hannah Cain drove down the left before fizzing a fine ball in for the run of Cayman, who all-too-easily slotted past Manuela Zinsberger.
But before the 60-minute mark ticked around in the second half, Arsenal were not only level, but 4-2 ahead in an incredible turnaround.
Team news headlines
- Kyra Cooney-Cross made her first WSL start, coming after her full Arsenal debut in midweek. Alessia Russo, Amanda Ilestedt, Steph Catley, Victoria Pelova and Caitlin Foord also returned to the XI.
- However, Arsenal captain Kim Little was unavailable for the game, with Katie McCabe taking the armband.
- Leicester made two changes – Deanne Rose and Janice Cayman came in for Missy Goodwin and Josie Green.
The first was a brilliant finish from Lacasse. Courtney Nevin dallied at the top of the area and was unable to hold Lacasse off. The Arsenal forward then stole the ball and nipped in front front before firing past Leitzig.
The equaliser saw Russo inexplicably unmarked inside the area. She was picked out by a fine ball from Katie McCabe, with the Leicester defence left rooted to the spot. It was then an easy finish for the England forward in front of Sarina Wiegman, who was in the stands.
Their next two goals were scored on lightening-quick counter-attacks. The first was created by Russo, who drove down the right. It was then a wonderful pass for Foord in the middle, who finished superbly past Leitzig.
Pelova atoned for her shocking first-half miss with the Gunners’ fourth. Lacasse slipped the ball into her feet and the forward slotted home under pressure, ticking Arsenal’s tally up to four goals.
Blackstenius added Arsenal’s fifth in the 75th minute. It was another sweeping Arsenal move as Steph Catley beautifully found Pelova. The latter then fed the ball into Blackstenius’ path, who easily converted.
There was one more to come though as Hurtig rounded things off in the eighth minute of injury time. Pelova again was involved, finding Hurtig inside the area. She stood up against Leitzig, before coolly rolling past the goalkeeper to complete a stunning second half for Arsenal.
How did things change so dramatically in the second half?
Laura Bassett on Sky Sports co-commentary:
“The intensity in transition moments. They were playing the space, they had the intensity, they were making good decisions.
“Arsenal are so exciting when they’re playing counter-attacking football and Leicester have just fallen into their hands.
“It wasn’t Leicester, it was Arsenal. They were playing forward quicker, into spaces, with the willing runners of Lacasse and Russo, Foord and Pelova being more involved in the game. They came out with a completely different outlook.”
Sky Sports’ Izzy Christiansen:
“The harsh lesson for Leicester is, fundamentally, their defence fell apart in the second half. We spoke about it at half time, and said they can’t take any risks.
“Holding a 2-0 lead against Arsenal is no easy thing, but you’ve almost got to park that and approach the second half as 0-0. They took too many risks at the back, it gave Arsenal an invitation.
“Against top teams you cannot give away easy mistakes, but that’s exactly what Leicester did.”
Praise for player of the match Pelvoa
Victoria Pelova was named as player of the match, and Tottenham striker Bethany England was full of praise for her fellow forward.
Appearing as a pundit on Sky Sports, England said: “She was outstanding. She played so well today, splitting passes, creating opportunities and getting in on the goals herself.
“The more game time she’s getting, she’s being a playmaker almost. She was the playmaker in that midfield, she ran everything through and she’s a big reason as to why Arsenal won that game.”
Pelova also told Sky Sports after the game: “They go one for one, so we just had to beat our opponent.
“That’s what he [Eidevall] said [at half-time]. We just had to do better and we came out and did great.
“Leicester gave us a lot of space in the second half which helped. But we always have to play like this.”
Arsenal are back on Sky Sports next Sunday as they travel to Brighton in the WSL; kick-off 2pm. Leicester return to action on the same day as they host Tottenham at the King Power; kick-off 3pm.