Tobin Heath scored Arsenal's second goal of the night
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Arsenal 4 Hoffenheim 0
Tobin Heath’s first goal for Arsenal was the highlight of their dominant first win in the Champions League group stages, as they swept German opponents Hoffenheim aside.
After being blindsided 4-1 by reigning champions Barcelona 11 days ago, Arsenal delivered their own four-goal thrashing on Thursday night. Manager Jonas Eidevall called it his team’s "strongest performance so far of the season" in their 11th win from 12.
Summer signing Heath – who was playing Champions League football for the first time in eight years, previously at Paris-Saint Germain – said the team had showed "character" after the disappointing Barcelona result. "It felt really good for us bouncing back," Heath said.
"Getting four goals today was a good response after the Barcelona game. We showed a lot of character, we came out with a singular focus.
"To be able to help with that to get a goal, especially the second goal, I feel like it’s an important goal to kind of get a little bit of space, especially the way Hoffenheim was playing."
The home side took the lead from a 21st-minute Kim Little penalty, after Beth Mead was brought down by a clumsy tackle from Michaela Specht.
Kim Little opened the scoring from the penalty spot
But Arsenal’s second was the beauty. As Heath said, it came after a period of increased pressure, when Hoffenheim’s forwards kept creeping closer and closer to Manuela Zinsberger in goal. Arsenal continued to try to play out from the back but there were a few nervy moments and hasty clearances.
They held off the threat, and with some fine build-up play produced a moment of quality, beginning with Katie McCabe’s cross from the left wing into Vivianne Miedema in the Hoffenheim box.
Arsenal’s rangy striker leapt to meet the ball and guided a perfect downward header to Heath on the left, who struck it first time into the far top corner. The American’s World Cup winner’s first goal in only her second start for Arsenal was one to savour, and a gut punch to Hoffenheim as it came seconds from half-time.
The start of the second period brought no immediate joy for the visitors. Miedema bundled the ball over the line for Arsenal’s third goal in the 51st minute, after Jordan Nobbs’s classy strike from distance forced a save from Hoffenheim goalkeeper Martina Tofekovic.
Hoffenheim had an energetic burst midway through the half though, largely because of 18-year-old Jule Brand’s persistent efforts up front.
A top save from Zinsberger in the 70th minute kept her off the scoresheet, stopping a deflected shot by the German teenager. Soon after, McCabe cleared Brand’s header off the goal-line. A goal from close-range from Arsenal centre-back Leah Williamson in the 86th minute put the game well and truly to bed though.
After two matches, Arsenal sit in second place in Group C, behind Barcelona who beat Danish team Koge 2-0 away from home.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Zingsberger 6; Maritz 6, Williamson 7, Wubben-Moy 7, McCabe 7; Little 7, Nobbs 7 (Iwabuchi 84), Maanum 8; Mead 8 (Parris 65), Miedema 8 (Foord 74), Heath 8 (Catley 74)
Substitutes: Williams, Beattie, Walti, Schnaderbeck, Iwabuchi, Goldie
Hoffenheim (4-4-2): Tufekovic 5; Wienroither 5, Feldkamp 5, Specht 6, Naschenweng 7; Linder 6 (Steinert 78), Dongus 5 (Harsch 78), Hagel 6 (Degen 90), Brand 8; De Caigny 6 (Corley 46), Billa 7 (Leimenstoll 78)
Substitutes: Dick, Schrader, Buhler, Kocsan, Fuhre
Referee: Stephanie Frappart
Man Utd and Sunderland win on penalties in League Cup