Monday’s Arsenal-Wolfsburg Women’s Champions League clash at the Emirates was a record-setting affair. A sold-out crowd of 60,063 fans in north London delivered a rousing atmosphere for the match. This game had no less ambience than a men’s Arsenal home semifinal would have, which was just wonderful to see.

It is, to date, the largest women’s club match attendance for a game in England. But beyond the terrific atmosphere, there was the game itself.

An even contest

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg at the Volkswagen Arena on April 23rd, everything was on the line in today’s second tilt. In the end it would take 120 minutes to decide a winner in what turned out to be an evenly-contested match.

The drama started early, as just minutes into the action an apparent handball penalty for Wolfsburg was denied due to offsides after VAR review. In the 11th minute, Arsenal grabbed the lead on a great individual effort. Stina Blackstenius powered her way past both the final defender and the goalkeeper, firing in the first goal of the match.

For awhile the match settled down, but just before halftime things livened up. In the 41st minute, Wolfsburg’s Jill Roord showed a brilliant bit of control from the top of the box, hitting a bouncing shot on the volley past Manuela Zinsberger to tie things up. Sveindís Jónsdóttir nearly put Wolfsburg ahead in first-half stoppage time, making an outstanding run and blasting a close range shot that was saved by Zinsberger. Alas, things would stand 3-3 on aggregate heading into the final 45′.

It looked as if Blackstenius had put the Gunners ahead just one minute into the second half, but VAR ruled the (otherwise outstanding) play narrowly offsides.

At the 58′ mark Alexandra Popp flicked in a header at the near post off a corner to silence the home crowd and put Wolfsburg up 3-4. Ten minutes later Svenja Huth had a clear chance to perhaps put things out of reach, but missed wide on a shot from about 10 yards out.

The missed opportunity was costly, as Arsenal’s Jen Beattie leveled the proceedings with a clinical header in the 75th minute. The goal would stand, but a VAR review dampened the energy of the moment.

Extra time drama

Seven minutes of stoppage time began with the game still knotted at 2-2(4-4). Seven minutes of stoppage time ended the same way, leading into the pressure of extra time.

The 98th minute saw a terrific point-blank kick save from Wolfsburg’s Merle Frohms to keep things level. The first 15 minutes would elapse without either side making breakthrough. A bit of a broken play at 112′ gave Wolfsburg a golden chance, but resulting shot was wide of the mark. A few minutes later Arsenal were inches from snatching the lead. A lofted cross floated to the back post and found the woodwork, bouncing away and ending the threat.

In the 119th minute, Pauline Brenner tapped a perfectly-placed cross into an empty net to stun the Emirates and put Wolfsburg ahead in the dying moments. The record crowd rallied behind the home side as added time began, hoping to inspire Arsenal to an equalizer.

But in the end, it was not to be for the London faithful. The Gunners now look to the Super League campaign, where they have a chance to challenge for the title.

Wolfsburg now move on to their sixth Champions League final, looking to secure their third continental title. They will travel to the Netherlands to face 2021 winners FC Barcelona at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven on June 3rd.

photo: Imago