Arsenal 4 Hoffenheim 0
Tobin Heath’s superb goal capped a dominant first victory for Arsenal in the Champions League group stage, as they swept the German side from Hoffenheim.
Weeks after being blinded 4-1 by defending champions Barcelona, Arsenal delivered their own four-goal beating as they transferred their impressive league form to European competition.
In their 11th win in 12 appearances this season, the home side took the lead from the penalty spot in the 20th minute, after Beth Mead was knocked down by a clumsy tackle from Michaela Specht. She received a yellow card for her troubles, and Arsenal captain Kim Little has managed five to five on the spot this season with her weak strike.
Arsenal’s second goal was a beauty though. This came after a period of increased pressure on the England squad’s four-backs, when the Hoffenheim forwards continued to move closer and closer to Manuela Zinsberger in goal. As Arsenal continued to try to play from behind, there were a few nervous moments and rushed clearances from Zinsberger.
But they resisted the threat and, with good building play, produced a quality moment, starting with left wing Katie McCabe’s cross to Vivianne Miedema in the Hoffenheim area.
The slim Arsenal striker jumped up to meet the ball and guided a perfect header down to Heath on the left, who punched him insistently for the first time in the far top corner. The American’s first goal for Arsenal since her summer signing – and the first in the Champions League – was to be savored, and a punch to Hoffenheim as it came seconds before halftime.
The start of the second half brought no immediate joy to the visitors. Miedema put the ball over the line for Arsenal’s third goal in the 51st minute, after Jordan Nobbs’ elegant strike from a distance forced a save from Hoffenheim goalkeeper Martina Tofekovic.
But Hoffenheim didn’t finish, largely due to the persistent efforts of 18-year-old Jule Brand up front. A superb 70th-minute save from Zinsberger kept Arsenal unblocked, stopping a deflected shot from the German teenager.
Soon after, McCabe cleared Brand’s header on the goal line, and the Hoffenheim forward continued to harass the Arsenal defense with his clever short passes and dynamic dribbling.
A point blank goal from Arsenal center-back Leah Williamson in the 86th minute, however, put the game to bed well.
After two matches, Arsenal are in second place in Group C, behind Barcelona who beat Danish side Koge 2-0 away. The Spanish giants struggled to make an immediate breakthrough, but a goal from Fridolina Rolfo just after the hour mark did the trick, and Jennifer Hermoso secured the win with a 95th-minute penalty.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Zingsberger 6; Maritz 6, Williamson 7, Wubben-Moy 7, McCabe 7; Little 7, Nobbs 7 (Iwabuchi 84), Maanum 8; Mead 8 (Parris 65), Miedema 8 (Foord 74), Heath 8 (Catley 74)
Alternates: Williams, Beattie, Walti, Schnaderbeck, Iwabuchi, Goldie
Hoffenheim (4-4-2): Tufekovic 5; Wienroither 5, Feldkamp 5, Specht 6, Naschenweng 7; Linder 6 (Steinert 78), Dongus 5 (Harsch 78), Hagel 6 (Degen 90), Mark 8; De Caigny 6 (Corley 46), Billa 7 (Leimenstoll 78)
Alternates: Dick, Schrader, Buhler, Kocsan, Fuhre
Arbitrator: Stephanie Frappart