Battling West Ham beaten by Arsenal in FA Cup

Julia Simic for West Ham United against Arsenal women

Two finishes of real quality proved the difference as West Ham United lost 2-0 to Women's Super League champions Arsenal in the FA Cup fourth round.

Dealt one of the most difficult ties possible at this stage of the competition, last season's finalists fought hard throughout but lost out to two superb strikes either side of half-time, courtesy of Katie McCabe and Lia Walti.

While the end result was disappointing, the Hammers proved much the equal for their illustrious rivals and enjoyed chances to level while only one goal down, but in the end couldn't quite make it happen as they turn their attentions to the Women's Super League for the remainder of the season.

The Irons were bolstered by attacking midfielder Julia Simic’s first start in 13 months, the playmaker up until now only appearing off the bench since making her comeback from long-term injury against Crystal Palace in December. 

After last week’s thrilling late turnaround, manager Matt Beard also deployed Esmee de Graaf at full-back, only the Dutchwoman’s second start in that same period of time, as Beard sought to counter Arsenal's significant wide threat. 

True to their respective league form, however, it was the North Londoners who started on the front foot, probing on either flank through Lisa Evans and Beth Mead.

It was Mead who enjoyed the first clear-cut chance of the match after ten minutes, getting onto the end of Evans’ inviting cross from the left, but the England international ballooned her half-volleyed finish over the bar.

The Gunners’ in-form striker Vivianne Miedema then came close with a looping effort after running in behind from Evans’ throw-in, but her finish cleared Brosnan’s crossbar.

The warning signs were there from Arsenal, and duly warranted Katie McCabe’s smashing opening goal, the midfielder controlling a pull-back towards the edge of the area and stepping inside her West Ham marker before rocketing a shot into the top-right corner.

It was another pull-back which almost put the visitors further in front, Miedema this time rolling one all the way across the area for Leonie Maier to hammer towards the back post – Brosnan plunging well to her right to palm behind.

Nevertheless, with the game settling, the Irons began to build some more promising moves with some clever approach play, Simic in particular swelling the tide more in Claret and Blue favour as the half went on.

It was fitting, therefore, that the Croatian would play her part in the Irons’ best chance of the half, drifting into space to meet Kenza Dali’s wickedly whipped flat cross. 

Stooping to make a connection near the penalty spot, Simic was unable to adjust her body sufficiently to guide it on target – but the chance was enough to get Rush Green Stadium roaring in approval again.

That was the way the game stayed until half-time, but once again it was the visitors’ who made the better start to proceedings, Brosnan doing superbly to deny Mead with her legs after just four minutes of the second half as the winger burst clean through on the counter.

The Hammers enjoyed another let-off moments later, Miedema picking Baunach’s pocket at the back and playing in Mead again, but this time the forward overthought matters, trying to tee up a team-mate despite having a clear sight of goal, and the move broke down.

One goal remained the sole difference, however, and West Ham came close to levelling terms when Leanne Kiernan’s cross reached Kenza Dali on the edge of the area. The midfielder flicked it over an approaching head and volleyed fiercely, striking the stanchion behind the goal when it initially appeared top corner-bound.

West Ham began to mount the pressure, causing the visitors some consternation from a succession of inviting corner kicks and direct passes, one of which granted Kate Longhurst a presentable shooting opportunity from inside the ‘D’, her strike blocked by the scrambling Arsenal defence.

Despite enjoying the better of the play in the second half, the contest was put to bed in a snapshot of quality by the Gunners, Mead’s corner from the right being met with an excellent side-footed finish by defender Lia Walti – Brosnan no chance.

Determined to haul themselves back into it, long-distance efforts from Longhurst and Dali caused Manuela Zinsberger problems in the Arsenal goal, but it was Brosnan who made perhaps the best save of the second period to smother Miedema's shot from close range.

Substitute Galabadaraachchi blocked Miedema's strike on the line as the game ticked towards injury time, and that was that for this season's FA Cup adventure in Claret and Blue.

West Ham United: Brosnan; Redisch Kvamme, Flaherty (c), Fisk, Baunach, Dali, Longhurst, Simic (Middag 55), De Graaf (Galabadaarachchi 83), Kiernan (Littlejohn 70), Lehmann
Subs: Moorhouse, Wallen, Kiszkis, Smith

Booked: Flaherty, Middag

Arsenal: Zinsberger, Maier, Williamson, Quinn, McCabe, Walti, Little, Roord (Van de Donk 78), Evans, Miedema, Mead
Subs: Peyraud-Magnin, Schnaderbeck, Filis, Grant, Mace

Goals: McCabe 16, Waltie 73

Attendance: 959