Khiara Keating, the goalkeeper, found redemption at Meadow Park as Manchester City defeated Arsenal, the 14-time FA Cup winners, with a 1-0 score, eliminating them from the competition in the fifth round.
Keating held strong against a late push from Arsenal, making an impressive save from a header headed for the top corner in added time. She also managed to block Lotte Wubben-Moy’s attempt and stop a shot that appeared to have crossed the goal line. This was a redemption for her mistakes that led to both of City’s goals in their 2-1 loss in the league, which left her in tears.
In the last few minutes of added time, Beth Mead’s corner kick potentially caught Keating off guard. However, without the use of VAR or goalline technology, it was impossible to determine if the ball had crossed the line. As she clutched the ball, Mead appeared somewhat embarrassed while Arsenal argued that it had indeed gone in.
For the second year in a row, Arsenal faced their Women’s Super League rivals in the fifth round. Chelsea had knocked them out at this stage last year, and this time it was Laia Aleixandri’s poked-in goal that eliminated them.
Jonas Eidevall altered the lineup for the team’s recent match in the WSL, replacing four players from the previous 2-1 loss to West Ham. Sabrina D’Angelo, Katie McCabe, Kyra Cooney-Cross, and Frida Maanum all started, as Vivianne Miedema was unable to play due to a knee issue. Additionally, Leah Williamson returned to the starting lineup after being out for a year with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and served as captain while Kim Little was on the bench.
City made two alterations to the squad that defeated Tottenham 1-0 in the Continental League Cup on Wednesday evening, with Kerstin Casparij and Laura Coombs being reinstated to the starting lineup.
This season, there is a clear tension between the two teams. City’s manager, Gareth Taylor, has accused Eidevall of mistreating the fourth official during their 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the league. Eidevall has dismissed this allegation as “borderline slander” and claimed to have moved on from it before their cup match.
The game at Meadow Park lacked any sense of camaraderie, despite the players putting aside their off-field frustrations. It was a heated match and Wubben-Moy was fortunate to not be penalized for elbowing Khadija Shaw in the head inside the penalty area. This incident was similar to the one that resulted in Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly receiving a three-game suspension after a review.
Shaw received the majority of Arsenal’s focus, as McCabe and Lauren Hemp battled for control on City’s right side, both figuratively and physically. After fouling Hemp, McCabe repeatedly nudged the English forward with her shoulder, resulting in a retaliatory shove that caused McCabe to dramatically fall to the ground.
At halftime, the lack of any cards being shown was the most noteworthy topic of discussion. The game had been characterized by messy passes, turnovers, and a limited number of opportunities. The only shot on goal came from Caitlin Foord, who cut in from the left but was easily stopped by Keating.
As the second half progressed, opportunities arose with Arsenal pushing forward more aggressively. The home team had multiple chances, including Alessia Russo’s deflected header that went wide, Victoria Pelova’s curled shot missing the far post, and Mead’s straight shot at Keating.
Both teams had opportunities to score, and the best chance for City was from two consecutive corner kicks. Shaw’s headers were saved by D’Angelo for the first one, and Williamson had to clear the ball off the line for the second one.
Shortly after, Shaw was substituted for Mary Fowler and was immediately given an ice pack for her leg while on the bench. The main threat for City was no longer playing, but they managed to score a goal from a set piece when Aleixandri poked the ball in after substitute Steph Catley was unable to clear it.
As time ran out, Keating made crucial saves to maintain City’s lead. She caught Mead’s shot with precision, leapt to block Pelova’s header from the corner, and stopped Wubben-Moy’s attempt.
However, there was one final dramatic moment when Mead’s corner was sent towards the goal and the keeper appeared to catch it after it had already crossed the line. Despite protests, the goal was not awarded and City handed Arsenal their second consecutive defeat.