Hammers women edged out in Continental Tyres Cup opener

Brianna Visalli

Arsenal Women 3-1 West Ham United
FA Continental Tyres Cup

West Ham United pushed Arsenal all the way in their FA Continental Tyres Cup opener on Sunday, but were edged out by Katie McCabe’s double as the defending champions ran out 3-1 winners.

In the first game of their new era as a Women’s Super League club, the Hammers gave as good as they got against one of the biggest names in the women’s game, with Brianna Visalli’s 48th minute goal giving Arsenal plenty to think about.

At that stage they led 2-0 through McCabe’s opener and Beth Mead’s header, but West Ham were on the front foot for much of the second period and threatened to take a share of the spoils until McCabe sealed it for the hosts ten minutes from time.

It was the Gunners who threatened first when Mead seized upon a loose ball across the middle with six minutes on the clock. She sprinted towards goal, but Gilly Flaherty made a timely intervention to block the shot and ensure the Hammers escaped with only conceding a corner.

Six minutes later the Gunners were in front. McCabe was the goalscorer, calmly passing the ball into the net after Jordan Nobbs’ close range shot was bravely blocked in front of goal.

West Ham looked for an immediate response and Jane Ross’ shot from a tight angle needed a save from Sari van Veenendaal.

Arsenal were causing problems on the turnover and they almost made the Hammers pay on 20 minutes when a pass was fizzed into Lucienne Reichardt with too much pace, allowing McCabe to thread an excellent ball through to Nobbs. Becky Spencer stood up excellently, though, to deny the Arsenal player.

Midway through the half the Hammers were awarded a free-kick in a promising position when Julia Simic was clipped, but Ross’ effort couldn’t quite beat the wall.

It has been a competitive opening 45 minutes, but Arsenal gave the Hammers a mountain to climb by doubling the lead on the stroke of half-time, Mead climbing high to send a thumping header beyond Spencer following Emma Mitchell’s left wing cross.

The hosts’ two-goal lead would only last until three minutes after the restart though, as Leanne Kiernan did brilliantly down the right to get into the area and cut back for Visalli to drill into the bottom right corner from the edge of the area.

With 55 minutes on the clock, Ross wasn’t far away from levelling the contest when her half-volley was held by van Veenendaal after more good work from Kiernan.

Fifteen minutes later the hosts breathed another sigh of relief after Kiernan beat goalkeeper van Veenendaal to a ball forward, but was forced wide and her cutback flew across the face of goal.

At the other end Spencer made herself big to prevent substitute Vivianne Miedema from making it 3-1 and keep the Hammers in the hunt.

However, she was powerless to prevent McCabe from adding her second of the game ten minutes from time, firing home from 20 yards to make sure of the points.

Spencer made an excellent save to tip Lisa Evans’ shot onto the post on 86 minutes, as it ended 3-1 to the home side.

Arsenal: van Veenendaal, Bloodworth, Williamson (Samuelssson 87), Quinn, Mitchell, Walti (Kukyen 90+4), Little, Nobbs, McCabe, Evans, Mead (Miedema 60)
Subs: Peyraud-Magnin

Goals: McCabe 12, 80, Mead 44

West Ham United: Spencer, Longhurst, Flaherty (c), Hendrix, Rafferty, Reichardt, Simic (Sampson 88), Visalli, Kiernan (Percival 90+4), Ross, Lehmann (de Graaf 72)
Subs: Moorhouse

Goal: Visalli 48