The England striker relives her team's 3-3 Premier League draw with Arsenal last week.
England and Charlton striker Eniola Aluko continues her weekly column with TheFA.com. Today she relives her team's 3-3 draw with Arsenal last week.
Hello again readers.
Hello again readers.
I am writing to you on a seven-hour coach journey from Sunderland; our match on Sunday was rained-off, so we didn’t get a game up there.
It is good, though, to have some time to let my fingers do the moving rather than my feet, especially after our exhilarating game against Arsenal last Thursday evening. It finished 3-3 with every ingredient of a passion-filled game that any onlooker would wish for.
We started off extremely well and went 2-0 up after 15 minutes. Sarah Snare, who has taken her first team opportunity with both hands, scored the opening goal with a cool chip over the oncoming Arsenal ‘keeper Emma Byrne.
Five minutes later, I scored the second, which I was proud of. After seeing it again on TV (and TheFA.com), I had to ask myself if it was really me!
I remember getting the ball with my back to the Arsenal goal, quickly turning the defender and smashing the ball as hard as I could with my laces from 25-yards. The ball flew into the back of the net, which gave us the foundation to continue attacking Arsenal with freedom.
Quite honestly we could’ve been at least 4-0 up in the first-half, with opportunities to put the game out of Arsenal’s reach. Casey Stoney hit the post with a well-struck volley and she also had a header that went narrowly wide.
We played the best football we have played this season and totally dominated the first 45 minutes.
At half time the general talk was to not become complacent and go out into the second-half as if it was 0-0. We knew Arsenal would not be pleased with their performance and would come at us straight away. Personally, what was special about the half-time team talk was the players’ enthusiasm to diagnose problems rather than focus on how well we’d done.
We knew the next goal of the game could change everything.
Unfortunately for us, Arsenal pulled one back through Kelly Smith. This certainly threw the team off balance for 20 minutes, as we didn’t start nearly as well as we did in the first-half.
However we kept plugging away, and I scored what felt at the time, was one of the most important goals of my life. A long-ball was played up to Sarah Snare who held it up excellently and set the ball to me.
I only had one thought in my mind to shoot and luckily for me it went in the top corner without their keeper moving. It was ironic to score such a great strike from distance after my long-range shots at Tuesday’s training session were scaring the birds in the trees rather than hitting the top corner!
I always seem to score spectacular goals against Arsenal and then miss the easy ones. A chance came for me to put the game away as well as score my hat-trick, but their keeper pulled off a great save. In hindsight I feel I should have scored. The ball deflected from a corner and I followed up the spilled shot and tried to tap it but she read the direction of the ball.
To a certain extent the game then became the Kelly Smith show. First she earned a penalty that I feel was dubious (I know you’re all thinking I would say that).
She put the penalty away well, which brought the score to 3-2. This increased the pressure on us and was the first of our many misfortunes in the second-half. Kate Chapman was stretchered off with what looked a very serious injury.
In true Kate Chapman style she went in for a 50/50 and came out the worse off, which rarely happens. This was a huge blow for us as she was one of our best players on the night. Emma Coss then saw a straight red for an alleged elbow on the Arsenal defender Cori Daniels.
We seemed to hold out well until the dying minutes, which was the 54th minute of the second-half. Kelly Smith picked up the ball from the right-hand flank, cut inside two of our players, drove into the box and struck it into the corner of Pauline Cope’s goal.
A truly fantastic individual goal, which although at the time felt like I’d been stabbed in the heart, fully justified why she has been short-listed for the FIFA World player of the Year.
There a very few players who can single-handedly win a game for a team, but Kelly Smith is one of them. She was the difference for them but it is a small consolation to consider we dropped two points due to the true class of one of the world’s best players.
Thursday night’s game was a great advert for the women’s game with high drama, great skill and highly talented players on show. It was full justification for why women’s football should be televised.
It had the same ingredients of a top of the table men’s Premiership clash and I’m sure many of the neutrals, newcomers and respective fans that were present were wholly won over.
My little heart just about survived the intensity of the game. Hopefully next time we play Arsenal the same will apply - but next time we’ll come out with all three points.
Catch you next week
Hungary v England
World Cup Qualifier
1.30pm, Thursday 27 October 2005