Just one change from an impressive performance at Manchester United in the Continental Tyres League Cup saw Sophie Barker replace the injured Abbie McManus and take the captain’s armband. Molly Pike was also fit enough to return to the squad, named on the bench.
Arsenal soon got into their rhythm and once Nikita Parris was off down the right, it looked to be a dangerous opening for the hosts. She spotted Beth Mead in the middle but her fellow England international couldn’t get a touch and divert it into the net.
Mead then tried to turn provider, teeing up Vivanne Miedema, whose powerful strike stung the palms of City’s ‘keeper Demi Lambourne. Lambourne was there again to hold on when Lotte Wubben-Moy headed Katie McCabe’s corner towards goal.
Leicester grew into the game and their first opportunity came from Jemma Purfield’s free-kick, which was met and turned wide by Ashleigh Plumptre. Sigsworth’s inviting cross soon caused panic in the Gunners’ defence but there was no one there to turn the ball home.
The home side soon looked to get back on top and, when Mead charged down the middle, it took a brilliant sliding challenge from Esmee De Graaf to block her effort.
Arsenal’s breakthrough then arrived midway through the half as Miedema teed up Jordan Nobbs to fire the ball beneath Lambourne and open the scoring. Just 12 minutes later, the hosts doubled their advantage as Parris picked up Miedema unmarked in the middle and she made no mistake in finding the net.
Lambourne was called into action again to keep out Miedema’s header, before City’s uphill task was made even harder when Purfield was shown a straight red card for a last-ditch challenge. Miedema fired over shortly after, but it remained 2-0 to the home side at the break.
At the other end, Parris then broke free and forced Lambourne into a smart save, pushing the ball behind, before Miedema twisted and turned, and then striking wide. Her next effort was also chipped wide of the far post.
City made two changes before the hour mark, introducing Pike and Mackenzie Smith into the midfield, and the fresh legs helped to stem the tide of Arsenal attacks until Miedema found herself free and forced Lambourne into a smart save.
Lia Walti shot wide from distance and Viktoria Schnaderbeck headed over as the chances kept coming and a third goal arrived with 80 minutes on the clock. Nobbs crossed for Frida Maanum and the substitute duly nodded the ball home to end any doubt on which way the points would be heading.
Maanum doubled her own tally soon after, heading a wicked Steph Catley cross from the left back across goal and making it 4-0.
Catley then went for goal from a free-kick, looking to add her own name to the scoresheet and net the fifth of the match, but a deflection took the ball into the side netting.
City’s best chance arrived in stoppage time as Pike played Natasha Flint through but she was unable to get a strike away, while Parris then rounded Lambourne but couldn’t hit the back of the net.
Sam Tierney battles for the ball with Jordan Nobbs in the midfield.
While it was the two goals which edged Arsenal into a commanding position, Jemma Purfield’s red card just before the break ensured it would be very difficult for the Foxes to attack and find a route back into the contest in the second half.
Georgia Brougham battled away alongside her team-mates throughout the 90 minutes.
Leicester set up well in the second half and frustrated the hosts, despite being down to 10 players, denying further goals until the final few minutes. Ashleigh Plumptre, Georgia Brougham and Sophie Howard were at the heart of that resilient play.
Where do we stand?
It was Lydia Bedford's first game in charge of the Foxes.
Leicester remain at the foot of the WSL standings following matchday nine, yet to secure a point in their first top-flight season. They are one point behind 11th-placed Birmingham City.
Esmee De Graaf
City must now pick themselves up to go again with two big games next week.
The Foxes’ final Continental Tyres League Cup group stage fixture sees them host Manchester City at Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday (7pm kick-off).
Leicester are then back in league action on Sunday 19 December, facing Birmingham City at King Power Stadium (2pm kick-off).
City: Lambourne; De Graaf, Brougham, Plumptre, Howard, Purfield; Tierney, Barker (c) (Pike 55’); O’Brien, Sigsworth (Smith 60’), Flint.
Subs not used: Harris, Zajmi, Devlin, Grant.
All times GMT.
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