Five-star Arsenal thrash Bristol City to boost WCL hopes

Beth Mead and Alessia Russo scored two goals each as Arsenal thumped WSL bottom club Bristol City 5-0 to boost their Women’s Champions League qualification hopes and keep pace with the title race.

Even with manager Jonas Eidevall watching from the sidelines due to a touchline ban, the Gunners looked as fluent as they have looked all season as they raced three goals clear thanks to Mead’s double and an Emma Powell own goal – all three goals involved impressive winger Caitlin Foord.

After the break, Russo added two more goals as Arsenal kept shooting. They ended the evening with 32 efforts on the Bristol City goal.

The result moves Arsenal nine points clear of fourth-placed Manchester United as Women’s Champions League football looks even closer. They sit six points behind WSL leaders Man City, and three behind Chelsea, who have a game in hand.

Bristol City, meanwhile, are seven points adrift at the bottom of the table with four games remaining – and the top two still to play between now and May 18.

WATCH: All the goals!

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Beth Mead fires in Arsenal’s first goal and gives them the early lead against Bristol City.

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Beth Mead scores her second against Bristol City to give Arsenal a comfortable lead in the first half.

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Steph Catley’s cross takes a massive deflection off Ella Powell to give Arsenal their third goal against Bristol City.

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Alessia Russo’s super strike from the edge of the box gives Arsenal their fourth against Bristol City.

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Alessia Russo scores her second of the night against Bristol City and secures Arsenal the victory.

How Arsenal thumped sorry Bristol City

For Bristol City, the task was to get through Arsenal’s first opportunity of the game and go from there. That came after seven minutes and they could not.

Foord pressed Powell into an error deep in the City half and that allowed Foord space in the area. The Australian’s shot bounced off the post, leaving Mead with the simple task of tapping home.

Beth Mead celebrates her early opener
Beth Mead celebrates her early opener

It could have been two moments later as Arsenal worked a short corner to Victoria Pelova, whose shot struck the crossbar. Stina Blackstenius and Russo were then denied by City goalkeeper Fran Bentley, while Arsenal’s Swedish striker failed to tap home Mead’s crossfield shot from a few yards out.

Eventually, the floodgates began to open. More excellent play from Foord saw her cut the ball back to Mead, who took two attempts but eventually fired past Bentley at the near post.

Two minutes later, it was three as Foord fed the underlapping Catley down the left and her cross took a heavy deflection off Powell, over Bentley and into the top corner.

Bristol City were only allowed one touch in the Arsenal during the opening period – made by Lisa Evans whose cross could not be converted by Ffion Morgan in the middle. Arsenal, meanwhile, set a new WSL record this season of 44 – that was how dominant the Gunners were.

Beth Mead celebrates her first half double
Beth Mead celebrates her first half double

Arsenal’s dominance continued with the shot tally racking up – but Bristol City had the best of the early second-half chances as Jamie-Lee Napier opened up the Gunners defence with a stunning pass for Emily Syme. Catley got back to recover and Arsenal goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo had to be equal to Amalie Thestrup on the rebound.

But back came Arsenal who scored a fourth on the hour mark. Kim Little found Russo in a pocket of space around 30 yards out and the Lionesses forward’s stunning drive was too hot for Bentley to handle.

Arsenal took off Foord and Mead but the pressure did not ease on the visitors. Bentley produced a stunning fingertip save to deny Emily Fox’s long-range drive, but she could do nothing about Arsenal’s fifth as substitute Katie McCabe teed up Russo, who swept home from the edge of the box.

Russo nearly had a hat-trick but she poked McCabe’s cross just wide of the far post. And with Laura Wienroither returning after nearly a year out with an ACL injury, plus 17-year-old Katie Reid making her Gunners debut from the bench, it was a perfect night for the Gunners.

What the managers said…

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall to Sky Sports:

“It was a very dominant display. I thought we were very good on the ball, controlled the ball throughout. We were compact as a team and we allowed very few chances to Bristol. We showed variety against a hard-working Bristol. It’s nice to score a couple of goals, Laura Wienroither coming on and Katie Reid making her debut.

“Keeping the structure, moving the ball very well. We had a lot of passes and it’s not easy against a low block. We can’t force things and we had to wait for the right moment and we did that really well. We had a really good start getting an early goal which helps.

“We have been saying we have not been effective enough with our finishing. Today it was a fair reflection of the game, scoring five goals. It was also good to keep a clean sheet. With the Conti Cup and the recent weeks in the WSL, we are keeping a lot of clean sheets. It certainly helps to win football matches.”

Bristol City manager Lauren Smith speaking to Sky Sports:

“We didn’t get our foothold in the game which is something we’ve been chasing for a long time. But I have to credit Arsenal for the whole game. It was hard to defend, hard to get near. They’re an experienced side and we weren’t good enough.

“We knew it would be difficult to get one, let alone three or four so the second half was damage limitation.

“The first goal where we gave the ball away, the intention was right but not the execution. The players will be gutted by that, but it wasn’t something we were doing in the first half of the season. Too much in the second half. We want to be a team that’s hard to beat.

“When Rachel Furniss has stepped on, you can see the attitude and we’ve missed that. Unfortunately it was a no-pressure environment for her but she’s got that under her belt.”

What’s next?

Arsenal host Leicester City next weekend in the WSL, with kick-off at the Emirates Stadium at 2pm.

Bristol City are at home to Liverpool a day earlier on Saturday, kick-off at 12.30pm.

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