Last Sunday saw the London City Lionesses fall to a hard fought 1-0 defeat away to Super League leaders Arsenal.
From the outset it was clear that City were going to be in for a tough test, as Arsenal were content to simply keep the ball and attempt to play their way through the City midfield.
For the Lionesses, their organisation was never in doubt, with the back line, led once again by captain Harley Bennett, holding firm against some of the best attacking players in the world in the form of Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead.
Shae Yanez was kept busy between the sticks, as Arsenal were soon trying their luck from range.
Her best save of the half came after half an hour, when Mead curled one from just outside the box, forcing Yanez to be at full stretch to send it over the bar.
Yet, with just a few minutes left on the clock for the first half, Arsenal found a way through, with Miedema cutting inside to slot it just past Yanez.
The second half continued in much the same way as the first, with City once again having to maintain composure and continue to keep shutting out that dangerous Arsenal attack.
With the introductions of Rianna Jarrett and Karin Muya, the City attack was galvanised, with Mollie Rouse attempting to play them both in on multiple occasions.
Yet the Arsenal back line, when called upon, was steadfast.
Yanez continued to be called into action for the rest of the game, with more and more speculative efforts being sent her way, and comfortably dealt with.
Overall, it was a tough game for City, yet one where they can walk out with their heads held high.
Speaking after the full-time whistle, manager Melissa Phillips had this to say:
“I couldn't be prouder of the team's performance,” said Phillips, “I thought we were brilliant throughout. We really frustrated Arsenal, caused them some problems and they didn't break us down easily.
“We stayed true to who we are and ultimately we wanted to continue playing the way that has been a success throughout the season.”
When asked about the performance of the SETL Player of the Match, Phillips remarked:
“Shae’s fantastic, the ultimate professional, and an extreme competitor. She covers the goal really well, and we know, as we’ve seen throughout the year, she's capable of making some big time saves.”
Of course, it goes without saying that Sunday was always going to be perhaps the toughest test faced by the Lionesses so far this season.
“They're sitting top of the super league, so to walk away 1-0 against a full-strength Arsenal squad, it's something to really proud of and hold our heads high,” said Phillips.
“When we came into this game, we looked at it as an opportunity to stretch ourselves and to find out everything that we need to know playing against that quality of an opposition, then taking the lessons that we've learned and applying them in league.”
Phillips went on to add:
“We've got some tough matches upcoming in the pursuit of promotion. And so we'll be able to look at where we can be a bit sharper, where we can be a bit more clinical, where we have opportunities to exploit opposition.”
“We’ll celebrate the small victories and the opportunities for growth from today and then we'll start focusing in on Durham which is the next challenge for us.”
London City kick off at Princes Park against Durham at 12:00 on Sunday the 6th of February. Click the link to get your tickets now!