Arsenal v Ajax: Women’s Champions League qualifier – live | Women’s Champions League

Key events

37 mins: Kim Little races onto the ball down the right, but her cut back is intercepted. Ajax clear the corner and break, but Weerden’s cross from the right is easily claimed by Zinsberger.

35 mins: Arsenal are trying to maintain possession higher up the pitch and slow the tempo a bit after that end-to-end first half-hour.

A big goal update from elsewhere: Rangers lead Benfica 1-0 through Kayla McCoy at Ibrox. That game also kicked off at 7.30pm, BST.

30 mins: It’s been a lively first half-hour, with Ajax posing plenty of threat but Arsenal showing they have an extra gear or two when required.

27 mins: Leah Williamson has strong words with her defensive colleagues, but moments later they’re back in trouble. Leuchter latches on to a through ball, but fires her shot straight at the keeper. Arsenal with some defensive issues to iron out, here.

26 mins: Ajax threaten again, with Van der Most’s dangerous cross fizzing past two forwards in the box …

25 mins: Vivianne Miedema, who has been deployed in a deeper role by Eidevall in recent months, closes down Kop’s clearance and the deflection loops just wide.

GOAL! Arsenal 1-1 Ajax (Blackstenius 23′)

She doesn’t miss this time! The centre forward reacts fastest after Rafaelle’s header came back off the bar from a corner.

Stina Blackstenius is congratulated after scoring.
Stina Blackstenius is congratulated after scoring. Photograph: Liam Asman/SPP/REX/Shutterstock

20 mins: A chance for the hosts to strike back, as Hurtig is brought down on the edge of the area. Beth Mead goes for goal, Kop spills the ball – but Blackstenius cannot hook the rebound inside the post.

Arsenal give the ball away cheaply from a throw-in and Ajax advance. As defenders back off Nadine Noordam, she threads a pinpoint through ball to Chasity Grant, whose low cross is turned home by Romée Leuchter!

GOAL! Arsenal 0-1 Ajax (Leuchter 17’)

The visitors have had the better openings so far, and now they lead after a lovely team goal!

Romee Leuchteris congratulated after scoring.
Romee Leuchteris congratulated after scoring. Photograph: Liam Asman/SPP/REX/Shutterstock

15 mins: Sherida Spitse has a shot from distance that’s well-struck, but comfortably held by Zinsberger.

14 mins: Maritz finds space down the right again, and her cross from the byline almost finds Hurtig, lurking near the far post.

“Van Gool on the Ajax bench is a wonderful example of nominative determinism in football,” notes Peter Oh. I also feel like keeper Kop is destined to join Liverpool one day.

10 mins: Arsenal are yet to put any real pressure on the visitors, who have been lively and well-organised. Maritz hooks in a cross from deep on the right, but Lize Kop is off her line to claim it.

Apologies for the slightly slow start there – it seems the only way to watch this game live (in the UK, at least) is via the Arsenal website, on a stream that took a minute or two to click into gear.

4 mins: An early chance for the visitors here, though, as Weerden wins the ball on the edge of the Arsenal area and finds Pelova, whose shot is parried away by Zinsberger.

3 mins: Arsenal, in their traditional red and white, are moving the ball around in midfield while Ajax, kitted out in all-navy, are pressing with intent.

Leah Williamson in action.
Leah Williamson in action. Photograph: Liam Asman/SPP/REX/Shutterstock

Peep!

We are under way at Meadow Park.

Something to bookmark for later: Women’s Football Weekly returns, with a full review of the opening round of WSL fixtures and more.

Just three changes from the WSL win over Brighton for Arsenal, with both full-backs replaced – Noëlle Maritz replacing Laura Wienrother, Steph Catley in for Katie McCabe. Lina Hurtig, who signed this summer from Juventus, makes her first start in place of Caitlin Foord.

Unlike Arsenal’s multi-national lineup, Ajax’s squad is comprised only from Dutch players. Rising stars Victoria Pelova and Romée Leuchter can cause the hosts problems, while the captain, Sherida Spitse, is also the skipper for her national team.

Team news

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Zinsberger; Maritz, Williamson, Rafaelle, Catley; Wälti, Little (c); Mead, Miedema, Hurtig; Blackstenius.

Subs: Marckese, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Nobbs, Maanum, McCabe, Foord, Wienroither, Agyemany, Earl, Reid.

Ajax (4-3-3): Kop; Van der Most, Kardinaal, Doorn, Verhoeve; Noordam, Spitse (c), Pelova; Grant, Leuchter, Weerden.

Subs: Bussman, Van der Wal, Munsterman, Tromp, Kruize, Keijzer, Hoekstra, Bakker, Van Gool, Sabajo.

Preamble

After their routine opening WSL win over Brighton was made to look far less routine by Manchester City and Chelsea’s subsequent slip-ups, Arsenal have the chance to maintain their strong start to the season by claiming a place in the Champions League group stages.

Finishing second to Chelsea in the league last season means Jonas Eidevall’s side avoided the tricky round of mini-knockouts that put paid to Manchester City’s hopes. Instead, they begin in the final qualifying round, a two-legged playoff with the Dutch runners-up, Ajax, who overcame Eintracht Frankfurt to get here.

An emerging rather than established European force in the women’s game, Ajax’s deepest run in this tournament came in 2018-19, when they lost 13-0 on aggregate to Lyon in the last 16. Arsenal will be very warm favourites to progress but cannot afford to underestimate a side with plenty of young attacking talent.

With the North London derby at the Emirates on Saturday, a return leg in Amsterdam next week and new signings to bed in, Eidevall has a few tricky selection calls to make to keep his team fresh while avoiding a dreaded early European exit. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.

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