That this tie is now well-and-truly alive looked highly unlikely after 24 minutes, when Arsenal had gifted Wolfsburg their second goal, with Rafaelle mis-placing a ball across her own penalty area to Jen Beattie and instead providing the most generous of assists for Sveindis Jonsdottir to slot in. That came after some more disappointing defending for the hosts’ opener, which saw the German side all-too-easily slice through Arsenal’s back five and Ewa Pajor raced through to provide a simple finish.
After a nightmare week in which Little suffered a season-ending hamstring injury and then Williamson was ruled out with a calendar year-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury, Arsenal morale will have inevitably been low, but by the time they produced the move of the match – when Lotte Wubben-Moy’s inch-perfect through ball allowed Victoria Pelova to cut back a cross for Blackstenius to tap home and give Arsenal a potentially priceless draw – their tails were suddenly up. In truth, they rode their luck in the closing stages as Wolfsburg piled on late pressure, but the WSL will be delighted with this scoreline.
“I am really proud of how we have been handling this week and this year with a lot of players injured,” Blackstenius said. “I feel like that [all the injuries] has made us even stronger. I would say that we are stronger now than we were one year ago.
“We really want them [the injured players] to be on the pitch, but that’s not the case now. It’s like we play for them and we want to achieve things together. We have them in our minds, they are still with us.”
The north London club, who are understood to have sold around 47,000 tickets already for the return fixture at the Emirates and have hope of seeing a club-record crowd and maybe even a sellout, of course still remain without long-term absentees including Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema too. But they’re not without hope.
Wolfsburg (4-2-3-1): Frohms 6; Wilms 7, Hendrich 7, Janssen 6, Rauch 6; Oberdorf 7, Roord 7; Brand 7 (Wassmuth 6, 64), Huth 7, Jonsdottir 7; Pajor 7
Subs not used: Weiss (gk), Kiedrzynek (gk), Agrez, Bremer, Demann, Wolter, Blomqvist, Wedemeyer, Hegering
Yellow cards: Roord, Oberdorf
Arsenal (5-2-3): Zinsberger 7; Maritz 6, Wubben-Moy 7, Beattie 6, Rafaelle 6, Catley 6 (Wienroither 6, 70); Maanum 6, Walti 6; Pelova 6 (Kuhl 6, 90), Blackstenius 7, McCabe 7
Subs not used: D’Angelo (gk), Marckese (gk), Goldie, Agyemang, Harbert, Reid
Yellow cards: McCabe
Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine)