Arsenal outclassed by Barcelona in opening Champions League

File photo dated 29-09-2021 of Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall. Issue date: Monday October 4, 2021.

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall. - Credit: PA

Arsenal’s nine game unbeaten run under Jonas Eidevall came to an end on Tuesday evening as they lost their first Champions League group stage 4-1 to defending champions Barcelona 4-1 away from home.

Barcelona who beat Chelsea in last seasons final are expected to go deep in this seasons competition but Eidevall went into the game saying that the Gunners would show “no fear” .

Arsenal were taught a lesson by their opponents by the best club team in the world in Women’s football right now after yet another dazzling display at the Johan Cruyff Stadium .

Barcelona began the game very much on the front foot not allowing Arsenal to settle at all with their high pressing system boxing the Gunners Into their own half. 

The Spanish side went after Arsenal going for the kill from kick- off as Mariona Caldentey scampered down the wing beyond Noelle Maritz before her low cross was cut-out by Jennifer Beattie. 

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Arsenal then had a half chance on the counter attack on 5 minutes with Katie McCabe breaking forward she tried to pick out Beth Mead but her final ball lacked any really direction allowing Barcelona to clear.

Eidevall then had his goalkeeper to thank for not conceding after just six minutes with his side completely boxed in when Caroline Graham Hansen flicked the ball into the path of Caldentey who drilled her shot towards goal but the keeper reacted so quickly to turn the ball away from goal.

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 Barcelona then began to toy with Arsenal as they created yet another goalscoring opportunity as Asisat Oshoala got down the right but she dragged her shot wide across the face of goal at the crucial moment.

It was wave after wave of Barcelona attack as they got another shot away via Marta Torrejon when she met a corner before getting her shot away on goal but Zinsberger was well behind it to make the save and keep the score level at 0-0. 

Jennifer Beattie was the next Arsenal defender to be called into action as Patricia Guijarro picked up space on the edge of the area before her powerful drive was well blocked by the Scottish international.

However Arsenal’s finest moment off the first half was to arrive with 26 minutes on the clock when Frida Maanum broke through on the counter but instead of passing quickly to Vivianne Miedema she took too long on the ball and lost it.

The Gunners just couldn’t get to grips or a hold of the ball allowing Barcelona to play through them at ease when on the half hour mark Caldentey met a cross from the right but only managed to direct her header wide. 

However the Spanish giants did take the lead they had been threatening a minute later when Zinsberger made a good low save from Oshoala but the Arsenal defence failed to follow-up allowing Caldentey to run in and tap the ball into the back of the net with a calm finish.

Zinsberger who had an excellent game for the Gunners was forced into an excellent save as Aitana Bonmatí jinked her way past the challenges before firing goal-wards however the keeper got down well to hold the low shot instead of pushing it back into the danger zone. 

Oshoala was looking lively and she was determined to make a mark against her old club when five minutes before the Nigerian international got into the box but Leah Williamson managed to push her out wide only allowing her shot to find the side-netting. 

On the stroke of half-time disaster struck for Eidevall and his team with Barcelona doubling their advantage after Oshoala raced away from the Arsenal defence and then instead of going for goal herself unselfishly picked out European player of the year Alexia Putellas who made no mistake in placing her effort into the net. 

Barcelona started the second half the way they had finished the first on top as it took less than two minutes to kill the game off when they went 3-0 ahead on 47 minutes with Oshoala netting against her former club.

Caldentey picked up possession in her own half before skipping past several Arsenal challenges before looking up and playing a masterful pass for Oshoala to run onto as she span Beattie with relative ease getting in on goal one on one before sliding the ball beyond the onrushing Zinsberger.

Arsenal did respond well however and should have scored in the 55th minute when Mead picked out Vivianne Miedema with a low pass but the Netherlands striker could only scuff her shot into the hands of Sandra Paños in the home sides goal.

Arsenal then put another fine move together shortly afterwards with Mead getting a shot away but she failed to hit the target as the ball sailed high and wide and away for a goal-kick. 

Eidevall was to shuffle his pack on 55 minutes when he made a triple substitution with Mead,Miedema and McCabe all replaced by Nikita Parris ,Caitlin Foord and Tobin Heath. 

Zinsberger who was Arsenal’s shining light on the night made another fine  save from Graham Hansen as the Norwegian linked up with Bonmati before getting her shot off on goal but she was denied by yet another fine reaction save.

With an hour on the clock Arsenal’s best effort arrived as Heath weaved her magic cutting inside off the wing and then drove a low shot just wide from 20 yards out with the keeper scrambling across her goal.

Eidevall made another change ten minutes later as Lia Walti was sacrificed for Jordan Nobbs as Barcelona brought on former European player of the year Lieke Martens for the final 20 minutes of the clash. 

Martens was inches away from scoring with her first touch when a direct ball forward was missed by Williamson who lost her footing at the vital moment allowing the Netherlands international in at the back-post but she dragged her shot wide when she should have hit the target from point blank range.

Arsenal were then very unlucky not to score themselves when after a quick counter attack Parris saw her low effort cleared off the line when María León made a heroic block throwing herself at the loose ball after following the England international getting a shot away.

However it wasn’t long until the Gunners did register themselves on the scoresheet via Frida Maanum who was also celebrating her first goal for her new club when Parris who made a good impression after coming on was fouled by Ana Crnogorčević just outside the box. 

From the resulting free-kick Heath swung in a cross for Maanum to bundle the ball into the back of the net to open her account for the club and give her side a glimmer of hope of making a remarkable comeback.

With just over ten minutes left Mana Iwabuchi who made a huge impact in Saturday’s win at Aston Villa came on to replace Arsenal captain Little. 

Barcelona showed why they are the current holders and queens of Europe with a scintillating display and they did have a fourth on 84 minutes when Martens slipped in behind Williamson making a fine run getting one on one with Zinsberger before lifting the ball over the onrushing Zinsberger and finding the back of the net.

The home teams weren’t satisfied and went for more forcing Zinsberger into yet another breathtaking save with two minutes to go when Irene Paredes met a corner before thumping a header towards goal that the Arsenal keeper reacted so well too pushing it away before Williamson swept away any remaining danger.

With four added minutes indicated the night got even more frustrating for Eidevall who was shown a yellow card after saying something following Barcelona’s fourth goal and his troops when the home team were awarded a soft penalty.

The referee judged Nobbs to have fouled Putellas and pointed to the spot who took the spot-kick herself however she was denied by a flying save from Zinsberger who flew like a bird catching its prey across her goal to beat the ball away.

The night’s other game in Group C saw German club Hoffenheim on their group stages debut claim  5-0 home victory against the group’s lowest-ranked side, HB Koge of Denmark. Arsenal face the Germans next Thursday, October 14th.

Barcelona: Panos,Torrejon, Paredes, Maria Leon, Crnogorcevic (Rolfo 76), Bonmati, Guijarro, Alexia, Graham, Hansen, Oshoala (Martens, 71), Caldentey (Vilamala 83).

Unused subs: Coll, Font, Fernandez, Melanie, Pina, Hermoso, Ouhabi, Pereira, Syrstad Engen.

Arsenal: Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Beattie, Catley, Walti (Nobbs 71), Little (Iwabuchi 79), Maanum, Mead (Heath), Miedema, (Foord 55), McCabe (Parris).

Unused subs: Williams, Cull ,Wubben-Moy, Patten, Schnaderbeck

 Referee: Jana Adamkova (Czech Republic)

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