Mead, Russo star as Arsenal beat Spurs, boost WSL title bid


Lawson: Spurs show growth despite defeat to Arsenal

Sophie Lawson reviews Arsenal's 1-0 win in North London's derby against Tottenham in the Women's Super League.

Arsenal kept their hopes of winning the Women's Super League (WSL) title alive on Sunday with a hard-earned 1-0 win over north London rivals Tottenham, in front of a sell-out crowd at the Emirates.

Alessia Russo's 49th minute goal from a Beth Mead assist proved to be the difference as Arsenal remained in third place, but moved three points behind Manchester City, who went top of the table with their win over Everton on Saturday. The result leaves Tottenham in sixth on 19 points.

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The 60,050 fans in attendance meant it was the second-time this season that Arsenal have sold out the Emirates, with the first coming in their win over Manchester United last month.

"I was thinking about a quote from Dennis Bergkamp when he said you don't support a team only for a player, or only for history, or only for trophies, you go and support a team because that's where you found an environment where you think you belong, Eidevall said when asked about the capacity crowd.

"And that's what makes me extremely proud to be able to say that I think we have found a place where more than 60,000 people feel that they belong. They feel that this is their home, this is where they want to come and support their football team.

"That is very special and that is something we need to keep very very much alive and keep building on. But, that's a special feeling that we have been able to create that together."

The match was also the first WSL fixture in history to have an all-female grounds team, as Arsenal collaborated with the Grounds Management Association to highlight women's contribution to sport and encourage more to consider a career in grounds management.

Arsenal dominated the early exchanges and almost went ahead in the fifth minute, when Russo escaped from her marker at the far post but was unable to get her body in position quick enough to turn in Steph Catley's inswinging corner.

It was the first of nine corners that Arsenal won in the first half, with a majority of them coming from the right, where Caitlin Foord and Catley repeatedly ran in behind opposition right-back Amanda Nildén.

Beth Mead set up Alessia Russo's 49th minute goal against Tottenham at the Emirates.
David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

But for all of Arsenal's probing, clear chances remained at a premium with the hosts guilty of being too ponderous inside the box. Arsenal's rising frustration in front of goal saw Spurs grow in confidence.

As they did successfully in the reverse fixture at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Robert Vilahamn's side sat deep in their half and set up to play on the counter.

The approach nearly paid dividends in the 17th minute, when Martha Thomas stole into the box after a quick break but had her shot comfortably saved by Manuela Zinsberger.

Grace Clinton, who scored her first England goal against Austria on Feb. 23, excelled in midfield and, along with Thomas, was key to helping Tottenham play through the Arsenal press.

The visitors nearly took the lead in the 24th minute, when Jessica Naz broke into the box and her shot from a tight angle was tipped onto the crossbar.

"I think [in the] first half we played a lot of good situations [to get] into the final third. What we were missing here is to create a little bit more of the clear cut chances, " Eidevall told a news conference.

"It's a very very tight low block. I do think that when you play against the low block, it's very important to understand that the reward does seldom come in the first half. It more often comes in the second half, and we needed to keep our patience and the quality to make that happen."

Arsenal began the second period with greater urgency and finally found the breakthrough via Russo in the 49th minute. A Kim Little ball over the top fell to Mead, whose cutback was lashed in from close-range by the England international.

The goal appeared to suck the life out of Tottenham, who struggled to find a way back into the game.

Arsenal, too, appeared content to sit back as their decision to consolidate their lead caused the game to lose a little of its edge. 

Goalkeeper Zinsberger had little to do in the second half and Spurs' drop-off in intensity allowed Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall to bring Leah Williamson on for the remaining minutes.

The England captain, who had pulled out of her national team's recent international friendlies through injury, replaced Laia Codina in the 73rd minute to loud cheers from the Arsenal faithful.

The high attendance rates at the Emirates saw Arsenal announce that they will play their penultimate game of the season against Leicester City at the stadium on April 21. It will be their sixth home fixture to be played at the venue this season.

"I'm so happy that they've put one more game at the Emirates -- it would have been really sad to sit here and say that this was the last time we were going to the Emirates this season," Eidevall said.

"We are looking forward very much to that and I hope our fans are as well. There is a lot of time for that game so hopefully the tickets sell fast."