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Women's Football News
Arsenal 3 (Smith 22, Nobbs 48, Little 62)
ASD Torres 1 (Maendly 70)
Arsenal will take a two-goal advantage into the second leg of their UEFA Women's Champions League quarter final tie following a 3-1 first leg victory over ASD Torres at Boreham Wood.
However Shelley Kerr's side could well have won by a greater margin and conceded a second half goal which gives the Italian Champions a glimmer of hope for the return meeting next week.
Playing their first match under their new manager, Arsenal fielded Jennifer Beattie as a lone striker with Kim Little, Kelly Smith and Jordan Nobbs attacking from midfield and Steph Houghton started at left back.
After a cautious opening few minutes, Arsenal carved out a great chance to take the lead when Rachel Yankey's pass put Kim Little through on goal but the normally reliable midfielder shot tamely at Gaelle Thalmann in the Torres goal.
Despite a lengthy stoppage when Torres striker Patrizia Panico picked up an accidental facial injury as she collided with the Arsenal bench following a challenge from Ciara Grant, Arsenal were starting to get into their stride and a fine move saw Kelly Smith and Kim Little set up Yankey whose fierce drive was well saved by Thalmann.
Arsenal's start was rewarded on 22 minutes as Little's free kick was headed on by Houghton and Smith, wearing the captain's armband, reacted quickly to flick the ball past Thalmann to give her side the lead.
Torres responded with Panico unleashing a 25-yard dipping shot which Emma Byrne held above her head and Arsenal were dealt a blow when Smith, who was looking in prime form, landed awkwardly after challenging Panico and limped off to be replaced by Niamh Fahey, with Houghton moving into midfield.
The substitution disrupted Arsenal's rhythm and they found it harder to get going again, although Ellen White did have a chance to double their lead after charging down a clearance but her shot was saved by Thalmann.
A number of heavy challenges did not help the game flow and Houghton was caught on the shin by a nasty looking tackle from Panico. The striker could have struck a bigger blow in first half injury time though as she found space in the Arsenal area but she dragged her shot well wide of the Arsenal goal.
Arsenal attacked from the start of the second half and doubled their lead three minutes after the restart. Yankey broke down the left and her cross was brilliantly controlled on the edge of the area by Nobbs who drilled a low shot on the turn which found the corner of the net.
Moments later another dangerous Yankey cross was punched away by Thalmann under pressure from Beattie and, following good work by Little, Houghton's shot from the edge of the area was tipped over the bar.
Arsenal pressure eventually told just after the hour mark when they went further ahead. Houghton stroked a pinpoint crossfield free kick to Yankey in space on the left and the winger fed Little on the edge of the area, where she tricked her way past Elisabetta Tona before crashing a left foot shot into the roof of the net.
Ellen White directed a header just over from another Yankey cross but with twenty minutes remaining, Torres grabbed themselves a lifeline. A good passing move culminated with Panico's passed being dummied by Silvia Fuselli on the edge of the area and Sandy Maendly drove an accurate left foot shot beyond the dive of Byrne and just inside the far post.
Arsenal tried hard to restore the three-goal advantage with Gemma Davison, on as a second half substitute, in blistering form on the right - one searing run which took her past Elisa Bartoli being halted as she was rugby tackled from behind by the Torres substitute.
The closest Arsenal came to another goal followed another great run by Davison which took her to the goal line before cutting the ball back for Nobbs whose shot hit the side netting.
The Torres goal took a little shine off what would have been a great result for Arsenal who, although a little rusty at times, will nonetheless feel that they are in a very strong position ahead of next Wednesday's second leg in Italy.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Steph Houghton, Kim Little, Gilly Flaherty, Ciara Grant, Jennifer Beattie (sub Gemma Davison 66mins), Jordan Nobbs, Ellen White, Kelly Smith (sub Niamh Fahey 34mins), Rachel Yankey. Subs not used: Yvonne Tracy, Jayne Ludlow, Rebecca Spencer, Danielle Carter, Jade Bailey.
ASD Torres: Gaelle Thalmann, Daniela Stracchi (sub Veronica Maglia 87mins), Elisabetta Tona, Silvia Fuselli, Giulia Domenichetti, Sandy Maendly, Patrizia Panico, Sandy Iannella, Raffaella Manieri, Giorgia Motta, Eleonora Piacezzi (sub Elisa Bartoli 67mins). Subs not used: Arianna Criscione, Nikki Matarazzo, Fabiana Costi, Romina Pinna, Erika Campesi.
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