Wolfsburg Women 2 – 2 Arsenal Women – rezal404

Goals from Rafaelle Souza and Stina Blackstenius saw Arsenal complete a superb comeback, drawing 2-2 at Wolfsburg in their Women’s Champions League semi-final first leg.

It was a much-needed result at the end of a damaging week for the Gunners. Their captain Kim Little and vice captain Leah Williamson have both been ruled out for the season with injury, as well as suffering a damaging 1-0 defeat to Manchester United in the WSL on Wednesday.

But Sunday’s draw showed there is plenty of fight left in this Arsenal team yet – although they did not make life easy for themselves.

They fell behind in the 19th minute as Women’s Champions League top scorer Ewa Pajor swept home. A poor error from Arsenal defense then allowed Sveindis Jane Jonsdottir to double Wolfsburg’s lead in the 24th minute.

But the comeback began as Rafaelle Souza nodded home from a corner just before half-time, scoring her first European goal. It was then a superb link-up between Victoria Pelova and Stina Blackstenius that saw the latter tap in the 69th-minute equalizer.

Wolfsburg pushed hard for the third goal late on, but Arsenal survived the onslaught to set up a mouth-watering second leg at the Emirates on May 1 as the Gunners aim to reach their first European final since 2007.

How Arsenal fought back at Wolfsburg

Stina Blackstenius brings Arsenal level
Stina Blackstenius leveled for Arsenal in the second half

It was a very quiet start at the Volkswagen Arena, but Wolfsburg went ahead with the first shot from either side in the game. Jonsdottir found the run of Pajor in behind, and it was a fine finish into the far corner from the forward.

Five minutes later, Jonsdottir made it two after a poor error from two of Arsenal’s most experienced players. Rafaelle’s pass back to Jen Beattie by-passed the defender, with the Wolfsburg winger lurking before firing past Manuela Zinsberger.

Team news headlines

  • Arsenal named their first XI since Leah Williamson was ruled out for the season with a ruptured ACL.
  • Jen Beattie came into the back three alongside Lotte Wubben-Moy and Rafaelle Souza. Steph Catley and Katie McCabe also returned to the XI, with McCabe taking the captain’s armband.

Jonsdottir could have immediately added a third, but she felt a header flying over the bar from close range. Wolfsburg looked confident for much of the first half – but their defenses were breached just before the break.

Frida Maanum’s fierce strike was seen behind a corner, which was delivered towards the back post. Rafaelle rose above Lena Oberdorf to power her header past the goalkeeper and give Arsenal a lifeline.

Wolfsburg's Ewa Pajor celebrates her opener
Wolfsburg’s Ewa Pajor celebrates her opener against Arsenal

For the first 20 minutes of the second half, the game was quite disjointed and scrappy, but Wolfsburg went close to a third in the 67th minute. Substitute Tabea Wassmuth lifted a header of the crossbar from close range.

It proved to be a big miss too as Arsenal equalized minutes later. Pelova was picked out by Lotte Wubben-Moy and beat Dominique Janssen down the left of the area. Her fizzing cross through the six-yard area was then tapped home by Blackstenius to complete the Gunners’ turnaround.

Wolfsburg should have added a third before the end of the game as Arsenal continued to live dangerously. Former Gunner Jill Roord edged a shot past the post, with Jonsdottir and Wassmuth also going close. Somehow, the Gunners held on after fighting back, leveling the playing field ahead of the second leg on May 1.

Wolfsburg's Sveindis Jonsdottir celebrates after making it 2-0
Wolfsburg’s Sveindis Jonsdottir celebrates after making it 2-0

Skinner: Arsenal now have a fantastic chance of making the final

Rehanne Skinner on Sky Sports News:

“Arsenal have ridden a storm, Wolfsburg had three chances towards the end, but Arsenal now have a fantastic chance of making the final when they meet again at the Emirates.

“There were two really competitive sides trying to get the best out of the game. Credit to Arsenal, they were behind in the game, but they made sure they stuck to their task and made life really difficult for Wolfsburg.

“And now they have the opportunity to play them at home when they can really make life difficult for them and they are now in a good position.”

What’s next?

Arsenal welcome Wolfsburg to the Emirates for the second leg on Monday May 1; kick off 5.45pm.

Arsenal then return to WSL action on Friday May 5 as they host Leicester; kick off 7.30pm.