Strikes from five different scorers – Jane Ross, Steph Houghton, Georgia Stanway, Izzy Christiansen and Jill Scott – handed Nick Cushing’s side a stunning victory over their title rivals, maintaining the Blues’ 100% start to the campaign.
It was only the second game of the season – the first on home soil for City – but already, it was deemed a potentially significant result in the title race. Arsenal do not conceded five very often.
Clashes between the two sides have often heralded tightly-fought affairs, won by the odd goal – not on this occasion. City were rampant. This encounter provided a thoroughly entertaining meeting in which the visitors twice fought back from a goal down – only for the Blues to regroup and respond in style, warning the rest of the league: they have a firm grip on their league crown.
Cushing’s side raced out of the blocks, creating two clear chances in the opening minute: Christiansen headed wide before Nikita Parris curled straight at Sari van Veenendaal.
Heeding the warning, Arsenal gained a foothold in the game. O’Reilly dragged an effort wide on 12 minutes with the Gunners’ first real chance.
As City regained control, Claire Emslie and Parris tried their luck to no avail, while Jodie Taylor attempted a lob over Ellie Roebuck, which was off-target at the other end.
In a crazy end to the half, three goals were scored inside the final ten minutes. Ross opened the scoring, clipping in ’ cross at the near post – only for Arsenal to level in added time, through Mitchell’s bullet header.
The Blues regained their advantage before the break, as Houghton smashed home against her former club, after Parris’ fine long-range effort was tipped around the post.
Just two minutes after the restart however, the Gunners were level again. A cross found its way over Roebuck and into the path of O’Reilly, whose header trickled into the corner despite McManus’ best attempts.
The end-to-end action continued. O’Reilly again fired wide before Emslie’s near post effort was pushed wide and a stretching Christiansen saw an effort saved.
Jordan Nobbs then struck the crossbar and van Veenendaal denied Parris once more, as both sides sought a winner.
City found one with 20 minutes remaining as Stanway latched onto Scott’s excellent through-ball and rolled the ball under the advancing goalkeeper.
Five minutes later, the Blues claimed a two-goal advantage for the first time, as Christiansen collected a loose ball, bore down on goal and curled in off the post.
Scott put the icing on the cake with ten minutes left, collecting Emslie’s cutback and volleying past van Veenendaal to seal a superb victory for the champions.
How they lined up…
Cushing named an unchanged side from the one that claimed a 4-0 triumph at Yeovil on the opening day.
Roebuck took her place between the sticks, shielded by a backline of Jen Beattie, Houghton and McManus.
Keira Walsh operated in her defensive midfield role, behind Scott and Christiansen with Emslie and Parris employed on the wings. Ross led the line upfront.
City kick off their second Champions League adventure with a trip to Austria to face St Polten in the 2017/18 Round of 32.
The first leg takes place on Wednesday 4 October (8:15pm CET) and the second on Thursday 12 October (7pm).
Tickets are available for the clash at the Academy Stadium at tickets.mancity.com.