Arsenal kicked off their season in successful fashion with a 3-0 win over Linkopings in the Women’s Champions League first qualifying round.
Kim Little missed an early penalty as Arsenal were frustrated in a goalless first-half, but headers from Caitlin Foord and Lina Hurtig, who played for Linkopings for three years, ensured the Gunners never looked like falling at the European hurdle, before Stina Blackstenius swept home late on to cap a comfortable victory.
Next up for Jonas Eidevall’s side is the winners of Paris FC’s clash with Kryvbas, with that match taking place on Saturday in Sweden.
The Gunners handed a debut to Alessia Russo, after she left Manchester United in the summer, with Amanda Ilestedt and Cloe Lacasse also featuring for the club for the first time. Beth Mead was named on the bench, ten months after she suffered an ACL injury.
Arsenal had the chance to make the perfect start in Sweden, when Frida Maanum’s cross was handled in the box. Little stepped up to the spot, but saw her penalty saved and a red shirt could not get to the rebound first.
There was almost an immediate response from Little, as she fired inches over the bar from the edge of the area, before Lotte Wubben-Moy’s header was saved onto the post.
Foord and Maanum saw their efforts kept out late in the half as the the Swedish side continued to keep the Gunners at bay, and Linkoping had a presentable chance of their own. Stina Lennartsson was played in behind, but blazed high and wide of Manuela Zinsberger’s goal.
Linkopings made it to the break on level terms but they were behind within seven minutes of the restart. Little was again involved, showing brilliant footwork to get to the byline and stand up a cross to the back post, where Foord was free to nod home the opener.
The lead should really have doubled two minutes later when Russo was played clean through, but the forward was denied as she attempted to go past the goalkeeper. An even bigger chance fell the way of Russo on the hour mark, after great work from Noelle Maritz, but she headed wide from just a few yards out with what proved to be her final touch.
Maanum hit the post as the Gunners threatened to take complete control of the match, though Arsenal were given a scare heading into the final ten minutes as YukaMomiki, only for the Japanese player to take too long to get her shot away.
That proved particularly costly seconds later when Arsenal netted their second, as Katie McCabe swung the cross in from out wide and Hurtig rose highest to provide the headed finish against her former club.
There was still time for Blackstenius to get on the scoresheet on home soil too, as the clock ticked into the 90th minute. Foord was free on the right to fire a low ball into the box and the Swedish striker was on hand in the middle to do the rest.