Two-time World Cup winner Tobin Heath opened his Champions League account as Arsenal beat German side Hoffenheim 4-0 and scored their first three points in Group C.
A penalty from Kim Little and a strike from Heath shortly before the break, with the USA striker making his second start for the Gunners after joining Arsenal this summer, gave Arsenal a considerable lead despite a brilliant start for the visiting team. Forward Vivianne Miedema added a third and center-back Leah Williamson was fourth.
Hoffenheim may have been a side unknown to Arsenal players, but the German side were on the radar of new manager Jonas Eidevall who faced them in the Champions League qualifiers while he was the coach of the Swedish team Rosengard.
“They are going to try to shoot at long distance and they succeeded with that”, he warned before the second group game of his team. “They’re very consistent in the way they play, so you have to be compact around the ball.
“It’s about playing a central counter-pressing style. The moments of back pressure will be decisive for the game and how well we handle it and how they execute it. “
The Gunners have been “humiliated” according to Beth Mead, who was named the WSL Player of the Month for September this week, much like the team’s 4-1 loss to current European champions Barcelona in their Group C opener. A 3-0 win over Everton helped boost morale, but securing points on the board in the new group stage was essential despite the start of the tournament.
The home side were certainly more cautious in the first trades with Frauen Bundesliga fifth-fifth Hoffenheim, perhaps a little too cautious as it was the visiting team that should have taken the lead from the start on a crisp Borehamwood .
After just three minutes, Arsenal’s back line looked shaken when a cross from the left was tilted towards Nicole Billa, but the Austrian striker turned and shot wide.
The threat isn’t dead either, with tall and powerful Belgian center-forward Tine de Caigny and Billa looking especially dangerous when played behind and Hoffenheim looking strong when in possession.
Arsenal grew up in the game pushed by a vocal crowd from Borehamwood and just before the 15-minute mark Heath flew down the left wing before sending a neat heel into the feet of Jordan Nobbs that forced a corner.
As the momentum moved temporarily more firmly towards Arsenal, left-back Katie McCabe landed a free kick around the short Hoffenheim wall from the right which goalkeeper Martina Tufekovic fell on but almost fumbled.
Where Hoffenheim had struggled to capitalize on their turnovers, having done well to take advantage of Arsenal’s too frequent capricious passes, the hosts were more clinical.
In the 20th minute, they took the lead after center-back Michaela Specht cut off Mead’s lift which had been squirming in front of her and referee Stéphanie Frappart pointed to the point. Up stepped up captain Little who shot a right from a diving Tufekovic to score his 40th European goal for Arsenal.
After taking the lead, Arsenal tightened their control of the game and Eidevall’s side were rewarded for their pressure shortly before the halftime whistle. McCabe whipped the ball from the left and Miedema rose the highest to wave it at the feet of a rushed Heath who crushed him in the net.
The two-time World Cup winner was making her Champions League debut since October 2013, having played in the competition for six months with Paris Saint-Germain who left the competition at the hands of Swedish club Tyreso on two legs. .
In the second half, eight years later, Hoffenheim manager Gabor Gallai traded De Caigny, who scored two goals in the previous round, for 19-year-old Gia Corley, but the game continued to flee the German team. Shortly after the restart, the hosts extended their lead to three after Mead ran to the right before returning to Nobbs, the England midfielder forced an acrobatic save from Tufekovic but the goalkeeper was unable to that force it high and Miedema pounced on the rebound.
Unfazed by the sidelines, Hoffenheim lobbied for a goal, with goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger forced to save Jule Brand and McCabe clearing Sarai Linder’s header from the line.
With the three points almost secure, Eidevall traded his first three, but it was Williamson rather than the new legs up front that would provide the fourth, rushing to the near post to take power in McCabe’s corner.
The victory put Arsenal ahead of their opponents in second place in Group C, tied for three points with the German team but three behind leaders Barcelona who surprisingly worked for a 2-0 victory over the Danish team. HB Koge earlier in the evening.