Battling Hammers narrowly beaten at Arsenal
Two finishes from Kate Longhurst and a Clare Rafferty free-kick were not enough for West Ham United to collect a result at Boreham Wood, as the side fell to a 4-3 defeat to Arsenal Women.
Longhurst put the Irons ahead with their first ever FA Women’s Super League goal with a header at the end of the brilliant team move, only for the Gunners to level minutes later from a corner, scored by Danielle van de Donk.
The midfielder would net again, scrambling home after some terrific pressure, but Arsenal would be level at half-time after van de Donk put home again from a corner.
West Ham fell behind when van de Donk collected her hat-trick just after an hour, before Kim Little struck from distance to make it four for the home side.
Entertainment was guaranteed for the closing moment however, as Claire Rafferty’s sweet free-kick found the net, leaving just one goal difference in a thrilling match.
The Women’s Super League’s early leaders looked set to cause chaos for the West Ham defence, with Vivianne Miedema testing Spencer in the sixth minute, only for the Hammers shot-stopper to tip the ball away for a corner.
On nine minutes, West Ham’s first ever WSL goal was scored, somewhat aptly, by lifelong supporter Longhurst. The midfielder was on the end of a fantastic team move by the Irons. Brianna Visalli turned the corner to play in Alisha Lehmann, who sent in a sensational cross. Longhurst rose highest, looping a header into the net.
West Ham’s lead would only last two minutes, with van de Donk scoring from an Arsenal corner, levelling the tie up.
Matt Beard’s Irons would not let the equaliser set them back however, continuing to press, which ultimately led to the side’s second goal of the first half. Leanne Kiernan pressured goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin into an error and, although the No8’s shot was saved, Longhurst was on hand to send home the rebound.
Spencer again showed her quality after a loose pass into the West Ham penalty area was not dealt with. Captain Gilly Flaherty slipped, allowing Jordan Nobbs in one-on-one, only for Spencer to deny her with a low save.
West Ham looked to keep the lead for the second half, only for a corner to again cause issues on 41 minutes. Again, van de Donk was in the right place, this time scrambling the ball into the goal to level the tie at the interval.
The experience Arsenal possess became apparent in the second period and, using the buoyance given by equalising moments before the half-time whistle, took the lead for the first time on 63 minutes.
It came via van de Donk, who secured her hat-trick from another set-piece, putting West Ham behind for the first time in fixture.
Ten minutes later and Arsenal had a fourth. Captain Kim Little struck a sweet effort from 25 yards that even the excellent Spencer couldn’t save, as the ball nestled into the bottom corner.
The Irons were reduced to half-chances throughout the second half, although some excellent work from Lehmann on the flank couldn’t be finished by the Swiss 19-year-old.
Suddenly, as the clock ticked into onto 86 minutes, West Ham got a third and were back in the game. Visalli was brought down on the edge of the box, and Rafferty was on hand to curl home a sumptuous free-kick.
But it wasn't enough to deny Arsenal the win and the three points in a pulsating fixture.
Arsenal Women: Peyraud-Magnin, Bloodworth, Williamson, Quinn (Evans 70), Mitchell, Walti, Nobbs, Little, van de Donk, McCabe (Mead 70), Miedema
Subs not used: Van Veenendaal, Samuelsson, Kuyken
Goals: van de Donk 12, 41, 63, Little 73,
West Ham United: Spencer; Percival, Flaherty (c), Simon, Rafferty; Simic, Longhurst, Visalli; Lehmann, Ross, Kiernan (De Graaf 73)
Subs not used: Moorhouse, Sampson, Reichardt, Kmita
Goals: Longhurst 9, 17, Rafferty 86