Arsenal through despite Lyon loss but wait anxiously on Miedema injury | Women’s Champions League

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Arsenal’s progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League was marred by a serious injury to the WSL record goalscorer, Vivianne Miedema. The Dutch forward, who has scored four goals in four games since returning from a coordinated rest between her national team and club, crumbled to the ground and left the pitch in tears on a stretcher, with her knee the culprit.

Arsenal are through to the knockout stage as second-place Lyon play third-place Juventus next week. The Gunners, meanwhile, can secure top spot with a win over Zurich as they have a better head-to-head goal difference over Lyon, who are level on 10 points with Arsenal going into the final round of games.

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The Arsenal manager, Jonas Eidevall, said he did not know how severe Miedema’s injury was. “I haven’t spoken to her or the doctor and got an update,” he said. “Right now, that takes a lot of my thoughts. I’m very concerned over that, of course, but we had to stay focused during the game and focus on our performance.”

Eidevall had said it would be difficult to predict how Lyon would line up for this penultimate Champions League group game. The French champions were hampered by injuries in the reverse fixture at the Groupama Stadium, where Arsenal delivered a crushing 5-1 defeat of the eight-times winners. Here, their manager, Sonia Bompastor, welcomed back the defender Vanessa Gilles and the forward Delphine Cascarino to the starting XI, while the influential midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsán was among the substitutes. However, they were still without Sara Däbritz, Griedge Mbock, Catarina Macario, Ellie Carpenter and Ada Hegerberg.

The opening 45 minutes were dominated by the home team, who controlled possession but struggled in the final third. They mustered only one attempt, and even that single effort – a header from the centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy – was off target.

Against the run of play Lyon took the lead at the close of the half. Selma Bacha’s ball from just inside the halfway line towards Lindsey Horan was cleared but only as far as the former Gunner Daniëlle van de Donk. She headed down towards an offside Melvine Malard but the ball was deflected into the net by the Arsenal midfielder Frida Maanum.

It was a cruel blow on the stroke of half-time, and the pain was compounded by the injury to Miedema moments later, with the forward crumbling to the floor clutching her leg after stretching for the ball. She was eventually taken off on a stretcher while her teammate and partner, Beth Mead, who is out with an ACL injury, waited on crutches on the touchline.

Lyon celebrate after Frida Maanum’s own goal gives them the lead.
Lyon celebrate after Frida Maanum’s own goal gives them the lead. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

In a half-time interview, Van de Donk expressed concern for her compatriot. “I feel very sad for her because you don’t wish that on anyone,” she said. “It doesn’t look good, so my thoughts are with her.”

Like Lyon, who suffered a 1-0 defeat to title rivals Paris Saint-Germain at the weekend, Arsenal have been limping towards the much-needed winter break. Somehow, their WSL and Champions League campaigns remain alive despite a number of injuries, with the Gunners three points behind league leaders Chelsea with a game in hand going into the break.

The momentum in the second half was firmly with the visiting side, buoyed by their goal and with Arsenal perhaps a little shocked by another big injury blow.

Eidevall disagreed: “After the game we are concerned, but we are professional. We don’t let anything take away our focus from what we are doing. We stick to what we need to do on the pitch. After, we are concerned. During, we are 100% professional with what we have to do.”

Rafaelle Souza replaced Miedema, shifting Leah Williamson into midfield with Maanum and Lia Wälti in a decidedly defensive move. The home team absorbed the pressure from Lyon well, limiting them to just one shot on target after the break. However, while Arsenal grew in confidence as the clock ticked into the final 10 minutes, they could not carve a way through the resolute backline of Lyon.

“I think we played well today, both in possession and out of possession,” said Eidevall. “From a performance perspective I’m happy, from a results perspective I’m disappointed.”

In the end, defeat doesn’t matter, but losing Miedema really does.

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