Arsenal produced a superb exhibition of attacking football as they dismantled Slavia Prague 8-0 to move into the Champions League quarter-finals 13-2 on aggregate. Their fourth consecutive victory was sealed with hat-tricks from Daniëlle van de Donk and Vivianne Miedema.
The big question for Arsenal this year was how they would fare with the renewed burden and benefit of Champions League football after so long. This period of the season was always going to provide an indication of where they stood with Women’s Super League matches against fellow title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City surrounding their two battles against the Czechs.
Two weeks ago, Arsenal travelled to Prague on the back of their 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Their 5-2 victory in the away leg was an exhibition of their resilience. Miedema was merciless, crushing the home side with a hat-trick by the 29th minute and four goals in total. The Netherlands striker was decisive again on Sunday, scoring the only goal in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Manchester City, a game notable for Arsenal’s slick passing and relentless pressing.
With Joe Montemurro’s side already on the verge of a Champions League quarter-final, the manager rotated his squad here, making five changes from the team that started against Manchester City. Arsenal took control immediately and it was one of the new players, Leonie Maier, who stood out early on, providing a lively outlet for the midfield as she tore down the right wing and whipped in crosses at will.
Her first dangerous ball into the box rolled across the face of the goal just out of reach of Miedema, and the first big chance of the game came from Maier’s cutback to Jill Roord, who shot straight at the Prague, goalkeeper Barbora Votikova. Van de Donk eventually opened the scoring from Maier’s third probing low cross.
With Arsenal finding so much joy down the right, Beth Mead cut a lonely figure for much of the first 25 minutes. But the first time she received the ball in space, she showed her class by driving forward into the box. Simona Necidova could not stop herself from bringing down the England winger and the penalty decision was clearcut. Kim Little stepped up and converted her penalty into the bottom left corner.
Once Arsenal started scoring, they did not stop. After hitting the crossbar twice in quick succession, Roord finally got on the scoresheet with a right-footed shot.
Miedema had been relatively quiet but as the fourth official lifted her board to show one additional minute in the first half, a sloppy back pass allowed Arsenal’s main forward to round the keeper and calmly slot the ball into the net. It marked her 50th goal in 50 starts for Arsenal.
It was fast becoming another very difficult night for the Czech team. They showed glimpses of the play that had taken them this far in the Champions League, and never stopped running.
But nor did Arsenal, who returned from the break relentless with their quick passing, still driving at the Prague defence and raiding down both flanks. Van de Donk scored Arsenal’s fifth after Roord’s effort hit a post and the 28-year-old midfielder completed her hat-trick shortly after with a fine header. Van de Donk was soon substituted but Miedema was not finished and she slotted the ball into an open net for 7-0 after Votikova was caught too far off her line.
As is so often the case, Miedema had the final word, heading home the eighth goal of the night and her seventh goal across the two legs to drive Arsenal into the last eight in the most emphatic manner possible. It has been a while. The 2006 European Cup winners have not contested the tournament since the 2013-14 season and had to watch other English teams claim the Champions League places. Under the lights at Meadow Park, Arsenal made it clear that they are back and they are determined to make up for lost time.