13 min: James wins a foul for Manchester United – all of United’s good work is coming through the England youngster – but they have yet to truly trouble Arsenal, who went ahead through that early goal. United are seeing plenty of the ball.
10 min: Lauren James gets to the byline but overcooks her cross … Ella Toone picks up the pieces at the back post but the Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger soon smothers it and promptly barks a few instructions to her defence. Presumably she wants her defenders to wake up to the threat of the talented teenager James.
8 min: Big block to deny Christen Press! United win the ball high up the pitch, Groenen slips the ball back towards the edge of the box, where Press and Lauren James are lurking. Arsenal throw bodies on the line and gather themselves for the aftermath.
5 min: … more joy down left flank for Arsenal and Millie Turner does well to clear the ball away for a corner. Arsenal’s Mead will whip it in …
4 min: Lauren James bumps off a challenge on the edge of the box and then picks out Christen Press, who cuts inside and tests the Arsenal goalkeeper. A lively and open start to proceedings …
GOAL! Arsenal 1-0 Man Utd (Roord, 3)
It was a fast start … and now the dream start for Arsenal! It may well go down as a Millie Turner own goal. Jill Roord zoomed forward and let fly.
2 min: Arsenal start on the front foot. Casey Stoney certainly looks the more relaxed of the two managers. Joe Montemurro seems a little nervy.
United get us under way. It is a lovely evening in Hertfordshire.
The managers have their say. “Big game, big game,” says Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro. “Both teams are going for Champions League spots and we’re looking forward to it. There is pressure in every game – it is a game. There has been a lot said about us not competing with the top two or three teams and we want to make sure we stay in the upper echelons of the division and right the wrongs.” As for Casey Stoney, a whiff of mind games? “I think it’s bigger for them than it is for us,” she says.
Essential pre-match reading:
Friday’s game is huge. Arenal are fourth in the league and six points behind United but have a game in hand. Win on Friday and win their game in hand and they are level on points. Lose or drop points and United could well be out of reach.
Team news news: Arsenal captain Kim Little returns in midfield but Leah Williamson misses out after sustaining a quad injury in training. For United, a big boost is the return of forward Lauren James, who partners Christen Press and Ella Toone up front.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Zinsberger; Maritz, Wubben-Moy, Walti, McCabe; Little, Roord, Van de Donk; Mead, Miedema, Foord
Manchester United know a result here would go a long way to securing a spot in the Champions League next season but defeat at Borehamwood would give Arsenal a leg-up and plenty of encouragement approaching the run-in. Casey Stoney’s side come into the game with a six-point advantage over a free-scoring Arsenal, who also have a game in hand. United are yet to savour European football since their inception three years ago but victory against an Arsenal team that has fallen off the pace would represent a huge push in the right direction. Chelsea remain at the summit but United will feel victory could also keep them in contention for the title. For Arsenal, defeat would be a major blow and the magnitude of the occasion is not lost on United, victorious when these sides met in November, either. “This last push is going to be really important to secure that top three,” says Stoney.