Arsenal survived a scare against Hoffenheim to reach the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League, progressing from the group stage despite a shock 4-1 defeat on matchday six.
Coming off the back of a heavy loss to Barcelona just last week, the Gunners knew they would make it through to the knockout stages as long as they avoided a defeat by five goals.
Given that they had won 4-0 against Hoffenheim at home in the reverse fixture it seemed improbable and unlikely, but the German side sensed blood and gave it a good go.
Arsenal haven’t been at their best for the past month and it showed again in this one when Julie Brand broke the deadlock for Hoffenheim 21 minutes in.
Even then, fears of some monstrous goal difference swing were unthinkable, especially when an own goal from Laura Wienroither brought the scoreline back level. But a flurry of Hoffenheim goals early in the second half would have Arsenal players, staff and fans alike sweating.
Chantal Hagel scored a three-minute brace, before Gia Corley made it 4-1 in Hoffenheim’s favour with more than half an hour still to play. Two more goals in that final third of the game, which was suddenly distinctly possible given what had already happened, would have seen Arsenal become a famous European scalp.
As it was, those additional goals didn’t come and Arsenal made it to the quarter-finals with nine points, having beaten Hoffenheim at home and Koge home and away, while losing heavily both times they faced reigning champions and favourites Barcelona.
Barcelona finished off their group stage with a 5-0 win over Koge to make it six wins from six.
Elsewhere on matchday six, Lyon and Bayern Munich ended the group stage in style with 4-0 wins over Hacken and Benfica respectively. Both had already secured their progress from Group D before kick-off but those results ensured Lyon finished top and will be seeded in the next round.
Group A and Group B will conclude on Thursday, but Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid have already secured first and second place respectively in the latter. It is all still to play for in Group A, with Chelsea, Juventus and Wolfsburg vying for just two knockout places.