Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall called for his side to quickly recover their spirits after the Gunners narrowly failed to reach the Women’s Champions League final with a 3-2 extra-time defeat to Wolfsburg.
Arsenal remain the only English side to have won the European club title and it took until the second half of extra time in front of a sold-out crowd of 60,063 at the Emirates for Pauline Bremer to set up a meeting with Barcelona in the June 3 Eindhoven final.
It was nevertheless a valiant effort from the depleted hosts, whose injury-plagued season has seen them lose top talent including skipper Kim Little, forwards Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead, and, most recently, England captain Leah Williamson.
“[We’re hurting] quite a bit,” admitted Eidevall. “It’s tough. No doubt about it, because it was a game of such fine margins and they’re not on our side tonight.
“So I think we’re allowed to hurt tonight, we’re allowed to feel empty, but we’re also allowed to feel proud of our performance and for the occasion with the supporters that are magnificent, so there’s a lot of emotions.
“Sometimes things go for you and you think that’s always justified, sometimes that goes against you and it feels terrible.
“But I also choose to look at it that way, that we as a group, we come to the Champions League semi-final with all the injuries we have, with all the challenges we have, we do that, and that is actually incredible. And I’m so proud of the players and the staff that they are able to do that.
“We are in a tough situation on the remainder of the season both to get our feet and heads back from here, but already on Friday we have a really important [Women’s Super League] game against Leicester.”
The hosts, who sit fourth in the WSL but with two games in hand over league leaders Manchester United, were first on the scoresheet when Stina Blackstenius marked a half-century of appearances for Arsenal with the opener, but saw it cancelled out by former Gunner Jill Roord before half-time.
Wolfsburg skipper Alexandra Popp pulled the visitors ahead after the restart before Jen Beattie’s equaliser forced extra time, when Katie McCabe’s cross hit the woodwork before a defensive lapse from England defender Lotte Wubben-Moy allowed Jule Brand to pounce and feed Bremer, who slid and scored the winner in the 119th minute.
Wubben-Moy otherwise had an excellent evening, with a critical tackle to deny Ewa Pajor a chance before setting up Beattie’s equaliser, but looked crushed by the final result.
Asked how she was feeling, her boss replied: “I’ve told her to keep her head high, there’s no need to apologise. Mistakes happen in football. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We’re there for each other.
“We learn. It’s inevitable sometimes. Today they also made mistakes and we were close to profiting from them. So it’s part of the game. She was absolutely fantastic if you look at it as a total performance and she has been lately as well. We’re there for each other.”