ARSENAL 2, ALBION 0
Albion gave a spirited performance but suffered only their second defeat in the last seven games against third-placed Arsenal at Meadow Park.
The Gunners maintained their 100% record in six Barclays FA Women’s Super League meetings against Albion thanks to two goals from England international Jordan Nobbs, but it was a much closer game than many of the previous fixtures.
Emily Simpkins had a chance in either half for Albion and the visitors were disciplined and hardworking all over the pitch, but Arsenal had that bit of quality up front to make the difference in what was an entertaining game.
Hope Powell made four changes to the team that beat Bristol City in the FA Cup a week ago with recalls for Emma Koivisto, Victoria Williams, Aileen Whelan and Kayleigh Green. Midfielder Libby Bance, 17, made her WSL debut and Powell will have been pleased with her busy performance in central midfield.
Albion looked solid and organised from the start as they tried to keep the game narrow and hit the Gunners on the break.
Although Miedema saw an early effort blocked by Meg Walsh, Albion caused Arsenal problems too. In the 13th minute Maya Le Tissier’s pass down the right put Ellie Brazil away. Her near-post cross found Simpkins but the midfielder couldn’t quite adjust her position to get in a shot and Gunners’ keeper Manuela Zinsberger cleared.
Arsenal began to enjoy more possession and in Beth Mead and Nobbs they had players who could stretch Albion. But it was still a surprise when the deadlock was broken in the 27th minute. Albion failed to cut out a cross from the right and Nobbs let fly with her right foot. Walsh seemed to have it covered, but the ball squirmed under her and inside the right-hand post.
The Albion No.1 made a decent stop from Jill Roord’s low strike but apart from conceding a soft goal, it had been a good first period for the visitors.
They had an escape just after the break when Miedema, with only Walsh to beat, fired wide of the far post but then had their best chance to date. A mix-up involving Zinsberger and defender Leah Williamson left Simpkins with an open goal to aim at from 35-40 yards out but her shot went agonisingly wide of the right-hand post.
Katie McCabe headed Inessa Kaagman’s dangerous free kick off her own line and with a quarter of the game left Albion were still in it. Fliss Gibbons and Geum-Min Lee came on with 20 minutes to go but Arsenal doubled their lead in the 77th minute. Miedema’s low cross was touched on by Beth Mead and Nobbs swept the ball past Walsh from close range.
Walsh turned a stoppage-time shot from Miedema onto the post but a third goal would have been harsh on Albion given what they had contributed to the game. Powell will have taken plenty of positives as she prepares her team for next week’s final away match of the season at Reading.
Albion: Walsh, Le Tissier, Kerkdijk, Williams ©, Koivisto, Bance, Simpkins (Gibbons 70), Whelan, Kaagman, Green (Lee 70), Brazil. Subs not used: Fiskerstand, Roe, Connolly, Jarrett, Symonds, Heroum, Olding.