Katie McCabe scored twice as Arsenal beat Bristol City 2-1 in front of a record 12,008 crowd at Ashton Gate in the Women’s Super League.
McCabe put Arsenal in front with a powerful strike from range after seven minutes before Rachel Furness equalised for Bristol City with a glancing header, which was their only attempt of the game.
Bristol City’s game plan to frustrate Arsenal was working until their resistance broke just before the hour. McCabe’s deflected shot following a set-piece wrong-footed goalkeeper Olivia Clark and they failed to recover.
Vivianne Miedema played for the first time in 11 months after suffering an ACL injury in December 2022, replacing Alessia Russo in stoppage time, while Beth Mead got more valuable minutes under her belt off the bench.
Arsenal remain in seventh, two points outside the top three, after their first back-to-back wins of the season. Bristol City, meanwhile, are still looking for their first points of the league season.
How Arsenal overcame Bristol City
Arsenal took control of the game at Ashton Gate early on as a pattern quickly emerged of attack against defence. Caitlin Foord, on her 100th appearance for the Gunners, struck the near post inside five minutes.
McCabe then struck from range to give Arsenal the lead after seven minutes with Bristol City goalkeeper Clark unable to get across to keep out the left-footed effort. Bristol City, it seemed, were at risk of being on the end of another thrashing following last weekend’s 5-0 defeat to Man City.
Bristol City responded with a goal against the run of play nine minutes later. Furness, perhaps afforded too much room, guided Jamie-Lee Napier’s cross into the far corner with her head. Manuela Zinsberger, the Arsenal goalkeeper, could do nothing as Bristol City’s only effort of the game went in off the post.
Arsenal were ruffled and failed to rediscover the intensity they started the game with. The visitors thought they should have had a penalty when Lia Walti was brought down in a tussle with Ella Powell at a corner just before the break, but referee Adewunmi Soneye disagreed.
Bristol City stuck with the low block in the second half and had to ride their luck. Clark unconvincingly parried Victoria Pelova’s shot into the path of McCabe, who was denied a certain goal by Bristol City captain Megan Connolly’s block.
Arsenal needed a bit of fortune to break down Bristol City, with McCabe’s shot taking a deflection off Aspin’s head before finding a way past Clark. The hosts failed to regain a foothold in the game after Arsenal’s second.
The introduction of Mead after the hour drew one of the biggest cheers of the night at Ashton Gate. She nearly made an instant impact but her glancing header was just wide.
Miedema came on in stoppage time with the points all but sealed and nearly created a goal with her first touch back in the WSL after almost a year out, with Foord denied by Napier’s last-ditch block after Mead’s shot was saved.
Eidevall: We had enough chances to score more
Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall speaking to Sky Sports: “I think it was a very strong performance from Katie McCabe and the rest of the team as a whole.
“What you get from Katie – of course she is a great set-piece taker – but also picking up the second balls, she has a great long-distance shot. It’s great for us that we have options.
“We had enough goalscoring opportunities to score more than two goals today. That part we need to do better. But I think the players have showed good patience and moved the ball well today.”
McCabe: Miedema and Mead return so special for us
Arsenal’s Kate McCabe speaking to Sky Sports: “It’s a real credit to Bristol, the defensive discipline they showed tonight was really frustrating at times for us, they were really compact and defended the box really well.
“For us going into those games it’s all about positioning and being composed on the ball.
“We know we’re a good footballing team but we need to be in the right positions to show that and I think we looked good at times. I think the second half was much more positive from that point of view. Luckily for us obviously the goals came in the end.”
On Miedema’s return, she added: “It was a really special moment for Viv, she’s worked so hard over the last few months. Herself and Beth [Mead] to have them both back within a week of each other is so special for the team.
“I said to her at the end I thought it was going to be a trademark Viv special because she slotted Beth in and I thought Beth was going to finish it off and it was going to be written in the stars. I’m sure we’ll see that combination coming up in the next few weeks.”
After the international break, Bristol City travel to West Ham on Sunday November 5 in the WSL; kick-off 3pm. Arsenal play on the same day, welcoming Man City to Meadow Park; kick-off 12.30pm.