VfL Wolfsburg will play in the UWCL finals after a thrilling second leg semifinal against Arsenal which ended in a 3-2 win in front of a record sell-out crowd at the Emirates. Stina Blackstenius and Jen Beattie got on the scoresheet for Arsenal while Wolfsburg had Jill Roord, Alexandra Popp and Pauline Bremmer to hail as their heroes.
In a game that was highly anticipated for weeks, the footballing community held their breath as everyone slowly watched every single seat on the ticketing page turn from green to grey, signalling a sellout. For the first time, Arsenal Women were going to play in front of a full Emirates stadium. “The attendance today…” the announcement begins in the second half. Photographers, media and fans all at once looked up at the board in anticipation. “An incredible sellout crowd of 60,063!” The roar was deafeningly loud, and it was one that both teams on the pitch deserved.
The match was a nail-biting one from the start. Stina Blackstenius took only 11 minutes to put Arsenal ahead. The forward chased down Kathrin Hendrich and got in between the defender and her keeper. Blackstenius brought it round the Merle Frohms and tapped it into an empty net.
Just before half time, former Arsenal midfielder, Roord brought the hopes back up for the away side as she volleyed it through a crowded penalty box and past Manuela Zinsberger. Wolfsburg had another chance on goal through Sveindis Jonsdottir whose run from the halfway line left Katie McCabe, Lia Walti and Noelle Maritz behind. The shot was fired straight to Zinsberger, who collected it safely.
Just a minute after the second half began, Blackstenius put the ball in the net for the second time with the help of a low driven cross by McCabe. The goal was ruled offside and it was Wolfsburg who got the next turn. In the 58th minute, Popp gave her side the lead through a bullet header from a corner that left Zinsberger rooted to her spot.
With 15 minutes to go, Beattie’s equaliser caused the Emirates to erupt once again. Lotte Wubben-Moy’s cross into the box met the towering defender, who headed it in to bring it back to square one. The match ended 2-2 at the end of the 90 minutes and went to extra time.
With chances to win it at both ends of the pitch hindered by saves or cross bars, it was the German side that got to celebrate. Jule Brand’s pressing came to fruition as she won the ball on the left flank before passing it to an unmarked Bremer who slotted it in.
Even as goals were scored by the visiting side, the Arsenal fans in the crowd immediately responded by lifting their side with echoing chants of support. The home side had two keepers on the bench and had to watch their teammate Laura Wienroither go off with a suspected ACL injury, which if confirmed, would be the 4th current ACL injury in the team.
Despite them being bare bones, the spirit was shown against a team of Wolfsburg’s calibre. The German side was poised to progress due to the sheer number of significant injuries impacting the Arsenal side but the 2-2 draw in the first leg was a ray of hope. Wolfsburg got it over the line in the end with a 5-4 win on aggregate and will face Barcelona in Eindhoven.