Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Player ratings as Gunners ease into Continental Cup semi finals
By Ali Rampling
Arsenal set up a Continental Cup semi final tie with reigning champions Manchester City after running out comfortable 3-0 winners over Aston Villa at Meadow Park on Thursday.
A Frida Maanum brace and Caitlin Foord strike saw the five-time Conti Cup winners into the last four at the expense of a Villa side who were unable to give a better account of themselves due to a number of key absentees.
Injuries and ineligible players meant that Carla Ward fielded a slightly makeshift side, with top scorer Rachel Daly moved to right back and Sarah Mayling filling in at centre half to account for the loss of first choice centre-back pairing Anna Patten and Dan Turner.
It was Arsenal who enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, Maanum asking questions of the improvised Villa backline with a bursting run into the box, while Lina Hurtig called Hannah Hampton into action with a curling effort.
The Gunners' early pressure was rewarded just before the half hour mark, Maanum spinning Laura Blindkilde, jinking her way into the box and firing low past Hampton to continue her fine goal scoring season.
Another Maanum raid down the right saw Rachel Corsie's headed clearance fall to the feet of Kim Little, whose venomous volley forced a stunning stretching save from Hampton.
Lotte Wubben-Moy headed narrowly over after being found by Katie McCabe as Arsenal pushed for a second before the break, but their advantage remained a single goal with Villa still very much in the contest.
Five minutes into the second half, Maanum doubled her and Arsenal's tally for the evening. Caitlin Foord robbed Daly deep in the Villa half, and Maanum spectacularly curled the ball into the top corner.
The duo combined again as Arsenal added a third on the hour mark, Maanum feeding Foord with a threaded pass, and the Australian forward finishing coolly.
Kathrine Kuhl picked out fellow debutant Victoria Pelova with a perfectly-weighted through ball following the introduction of the two new signings for the final 23 minutes, but Hampton denied the Dutch international with a strong palmed save to keep the scoreline to three.
GK: Sabrina D'Angelo - 6/10 - Making her Arsenal debut, got down low to save from Hanson at her near post and was ice cool playing out from the back when under pressure from two Villa players in the first half.
RB: Noelle Maritz - 6/10 - Beaten by Hanson on a couple of occasions but otherwise typically solid.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy - 7/10 - Saw a glorious free header fly over the bar. Marshalled Gielnik well.
CB: Rafaelle - 7/10 - Typically solid, hardly gave Gielnik a sniff.
LB: Katie McCabe - 8/10 - Teed up Wubben-Moy with a curling delivery in the first half, and did a good defensive job on Lehmann.
CM: Leah Williamson - 7/10 - Moved into a midfield role. Tidy in possession, switched play well, before being replaced with 23 minutes remaining with the game as good as won.
CM: Kim Little - 7/10 - Saw a low effort and stinging volley saved in the first half. Typically efficient in possession.
CM: Frida Maanum - 9/10 - Opened the scoring with a fabulous spin, smart footwork and low finish and added a spectacular second after the break, powering the ball into the top corner. Set up Arsenal's third with a pinpoint pass and caused chaos all evening with her industrious running and athleticism.
RW: Lina Hurtig - 6/10 - Saw a curling first half effort saved, and intelligently drifted inside on a few occasions to allow Maanum to bomb forward down the right. Missed a glorious chance from a yard out in the latter stages.
ST: Stina Blackstenius - 7/10 - Frequently dropped deep to allow Maanum to bomb on and linked play well, playing a particularly instrumental role in the third goal.
LW: Caitlin Foord - 8/10 - Teed up Little in the first half with an audacious flick, and dispossessed Daly to set up Arsenal's second. On the scoresheet herself with a cool finish, and was a constant threat throughout.
SUB: Steph Catley (67' for McCabe) - 6/10
SUB: Kathrine Kuhl (67' for Williamson) - 6/10
SUB: Victoria Pelova (67' for Blackstenius) -6/10
Aston Villa (4-3-3)
GK: Hannah Hampton - 6/10 - Made a pair of great saves to keep out a stinging Little volley in the first half, and a low Pelova strike when one v one in the second.
RB: Rachel Daly - 5/10 - Playing at full back for the first time in a Villa shirt, but moved back into a forward role at half time to liven up the Villa attack. Robbed deep in her own half in the build up to Arsenal's second.
CB: Sarah Mayling - 6/10 - Moved to a slightly unnatural centre back role, made an important early block, and another big first half tackle to prevent Maanum steaming through.
CB: Rachel Corsie - 5/10 - Popped up with a couple of important headers, but ultimately struggled to content with Arsenal's dynamic forward line.
LB: Maz Pacheco - 6/10 - Had a tough time whenever Maanum drifted to the Arsenal right, such is the midfielder's pace and strength. Had a good defensive battle with Hurtig.
CM: Laura Blindkilde - 5/10 - Beaten by Maanum in the build up to the Arsenal goal and struggled to contain the Gunners number 10 throughout. Played out of some high pressure situations with her back to goal very well.
CM: Kenza Dali - 6/10 - Good in tight spaces when playing out from the back, a cool presence on the ball in the congested midfield. Wasteful with a couple of attempted longer, probing passes. Fizzed a free kick just wide in the second half.
CM: Jordan Nobbs - 6/10 - Making her hotly-anticipated return to former club, found Lehmann with a really smart cut back to create a promising opening for her new side. Put in a big shift and received a warm reception following her withdrawal in the final 10 minutes.
RW: Alisha Lehmann - 5/10 - Struggled to get the better of McCabe in the first half, briefly dropped into right back for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Lost the run of Foord in the build up to Arsenal's third.
ST: Emily Gielnik - 5/10 - Struggled to get into the game and was largely kept under wraps by Rafaelle and Wubben-Moy. Replaced after an hour.
LW: Kirsty Hanson - 6/10 - Had Villa's first half chance of the game, seeing a low effort saved at the near post. Caused a few problems in the first half, quieter in the second.
SUB: Ruesha Littlejohn (60' for Gielnik) - 6/10
SUB: Olivia McLoughlin (83' for Nobbs) - 5/10