Arsenal crashed out of the Women’s Champions League in the qualifying stages, losing on penalties following a 3-3 draw against Paris FC.
Alessia Russo came off the bench to give Arsenal an 80th-minute lifeline after Mathilde Bourdieu had scored two goals in three second-half minutes for Paris FC. Jen Beattie then forced extra-time with a stunning header in the sixth minute of added time — three minutes after coming on.
But extra time goals from Louise Fleury and Russo sent the game to penalties, which Paris FC won 4-2.
Jonas Eidevall’s side, who reached the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League, won’t be competing in the competition for the remainder of this season.
The result means Paris FC progress to round two but they will have to wait until September 15 for the draw to confirm their next opponent.
Wolfsburg, Paris-Saint Germain, Real Madrid, Sparta Prague, BK Hacken and Manchester United all enter at the second stage of qualifying, alongside the 15 winning teams from round one.
The winners of two-legged second-round ties will secure a Champions League group-stage spot.
Arsenal had beaten Linkoping in their first knockout game of the qualifying stage but Eidevall opted to start Stina Blackstenius over new signing Russo up front, with Stephanie Catley dropping into left-back as Katie McCabe’s replacement.
Paris FC, who made it to the Champions League semi-finals in 2012-13, were stubborn opponents in the first half, with goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie — a standout player for Nigeria at the Women’s World Cup — making a number of smart saves.
Bourdieu scored the opener against the run of play in the 56th minute with a cross that flew over the head of goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger, bouncing narrowly over the line. Without the use of VAR, the call appeared a tight one but the fourth official was adamant of the goal.
That should have been Arsenal’s wake-up call, but less than a minute after the restart, a pinpoint pass sent Bourdieu through one-on-one and she poked through Zinsberger’s legs to leave Arsenal stunned.
Eidevall threw on Russo, as well as McCabe and Lina Hertig, switching from a 4-3-3 formation to 4-4-2 .
The move paid off with Russo firing past Nnadozie for her first Arsenal goal and there was more drama to come as Beattie rose highest just minutes after coming on to head home a McCabe cross and force extra time.
In the first half of extra time, Paris FC converted their third goal of the game after Fleury finished past Zinsberger to give her side the lead.
Russo, however, responded in the 116th minute by picking up the ball and dribbling past three Paris FC players before firing a rocket on the edge of the box to get the crucial leveller.
Penalties followed extra time, and it was Paris FC who won the shootout, with Louna Ribadeira firing home the winning spot kick after Frida Maanum and Russo missed for Arsenal.
What does this mean for Arsenal?
Analysis by Chloe Morgan
This was not the start to the season Arsenal expected. A side who, despite being plagued with injuries last season (Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson) dug deep to secure Champions League qualification and a third place WSL finish.
Questions will need to be asked. Despite shoring themselves up defensively with new signing Amanda Ilestedt, the backline looked leaky. Many of Paris FC’s chances came through errors, with Arsenal either switching off or failing to complete the basics. The third goal in particular came from a cutback which was able to run opposed through the centre of Arsenal’s box.
Arsenal, who won their only Champions League title in 2007, have reached the semi-finals of the competition six times, their most recent being last season when they were narrowly knocked out by Wolfsburg.
They have done well to recruit strong, new signings this summer, securing World Cup finalist Alessia Russo and Canada international Cloe Lacasse, both of whom will have no doubt been attracted to the club by the prospect of playing European football.
Russo in particular will be disappointed, after leaving Manchester United – a club with Champions League football secured this season – in order to further her development.
Mary Earps, who Arsenal submitted a bid for a week ago, may be relieved to hear Arsenal have exited early given that it is looking more likely she will be staying at United following no further news of a second offer from the north London side. The grass suddenly doesn’t look so green anymore.
The prize money for the Champions League is still relatively low but making it to the semi-finals would have given them an extra €50,000 in the bank to assist with signings in the next transfer window. Making it to the final would have meant at least an extra €200,000.
Crashing out this early will take the shine off of Arsenal for the upcoming season and put more pressure on them to achieve silverware in the domestic competitions.
The upside is that Arsenal will not have to contend with as many fixtures as Chelsea and United, should those sides progress into the group stages.
Last year, a lot of focus around the reasons behind Arsenal’s injury woes was heavy scheduling. With a still depleted squad, there may be a silver lining – less games this season could be an opportunity to allow new signings to merge and offer a chance for the entire team to get fit without the heavy demand of chasing a second European title.
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