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Monday, March 20, 2023

Hemp and Kelly run riot for Manchester City in WSL victory over Arsenal

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The England wingers Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp ran riot against Arsenal’s chaotic back line and scored a goal apiece as Manchester City leapfrogged Arsenal into third. City now sit three points clear of Arsenal, having played a game more, and are level on points with second-placed Manchester United and two behind the leaders Chelsea after a stuttering start to the season.“I’m very impressed,” said the Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor. “We were on it from minute one. It’s a testament to the girls to take it to another level from the game the other day. We should’ve been four or five up at half-time.”Arsenal had kept 16 clean sheets in 21 away games in the league before this trip to Manchester, but any evidence of their previous defensive solidity on the road was sorely missing. Jonas Eidevall opted for a back three of Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Rafaelle Souza for the second time, with the first outing of the formation coming in the midweek 1-0 extra time defeat of City. This time, though, Noelle Maritz and Steph Catley came in as the wing-backs in place of Katie McCabe and Laura Wienroither.The effect was catastrophic. Any cohesion among the five was ruptured and Maritz was caught drifting inwards leaving Williamson pulled wide to cope with her dynamic England teammate Hemp.“This game here, it’s my responsibility,” said Eidevall. “They pressed us with high intensity and we weren’t getting into our positions quick enough to deal with that.”Taylor said: “The top end players created a lot of havoc without the ball today.”It took four minutes for City to do what they had failed to do in 120 minutes on Wednesday, Kelly whipped the ball across the face of the goal and Hemp turned in at the back post with Maritz glued to the spot.City should have been further ahead far sooner than they were, with Laia Aleixandri firing over from close range and the Arsenal goalkeeper, Manuela Zinsberger, twice saving well with her feet – first from Khadija Shaw and then from Fliippa Angeldahl.Eidevall had said being able to play in two different systems at the back would “make it harder for opponents to prepare for us”, but City did not have to change much, Kelly and Hemp were relentless and with Souza and Williamson pulled wider and wider Wubben-Moy was too often left to deal with the WSL top-scorer Shaw alone.Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring Manchester City’s second goal. Photograph: Natalie Mincher/SPP/ShutterstockThat would be the scenario for the second, Shaw put Wubben-Moy under pressure and the England centre-back tried a risky pass wide to Catley, it was weak, and Shaw pounced and drove forward before selflessly squaring to the more central Kelly to hammer in from close range.There was a double change for Arsenal at the break, with Wubben-Moy off for Lia Wälti to allow Williamson and Souza to resume their partnership in the middle as the more familiar back four was reverted to, while McCabe was on in place of Caitlin Foord to provide more cover ahead of Maritz.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionArsenal instantly looked more assured at the back and with Williamson more central and able to carry the ball forward and build possession from deep things evened up a little and Arsenal began to threaten. Stina Blackstenius hit the ball off the base of the post five minutes after the restart and the visiting team clawed a goal back four minutes later, when Frida Maanum’s free-kick was headed into the far corner by an unchallenged Souza with Ellie Roebuck stood still.Quick GuideHow do I sign up for sport breaking news alerts?ShowDownload the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.Turn on sport notifications.City would go close to restoring their two-goal lead through the influential midfielder Yui Hasegawa, who crashed the ball off the crossbar.“Yui has come in and taken the team’s level of performance to another level,” said Taylor.Arsenal’s improvement continued but it was too little too late, with the damage done in the first half, and their title aspirations have been heavily dented. “I take it game-by-game,” said Eidevall. “It never changes for me. We always go game-by-game, trying to do our very best.”

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