Beth Mead's Arsenal start 2021 with frustrating draw at Reading

Beth MeadBeth Mead
Beth Mead
Beth Mead’s Arsenal made a disappointing start to 2021 on Sunday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Reading at the Madejski Stadium.

Mead started the encounter on the bench, while Anna Patten was handed her second Arsenal debut after rejoining the club last week, while Lia Walti made her first start since returning from injury.

Lining up in an attacking 3-2-2-3 formation, Joe Montemurro would have hoped for a fast start from his side, but it was the hosts who came flying out of the blocks, with two former Gunners combining for the opener.

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Standing over a free-kick, Emma Mitchell whipped a dangerous delivery into the penalty area and Lauren Bruton was on hand to finish at the near post after five minutes.

The Gunners’ Dutch striker Vivianne Miedema only needs one chance in front of goal, though, so when Jill Roord’s glancing header was saved and pushed back into the penalty area, she was well-placed to level the scores.

The Netherlands international has now scored 12 Women’s Super League goals in just 11 fixtures this season.

But that late first-half push wasn’t enough for Montemurro, as he opted for a triple change at the break.

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Jen Beattie and Leah Williamson replaced Lotte Wubben-Moy and Patten, while Malin Gut was swapped out for Mead, with Lisa Evans filling in at right back.

These changes saw Arsenal carve out three golden opportunities in quick succession.

First, Miedema fired wide from close range following some exceptional wing play by Mead, before the latter was played through on goal and uncharacteristically fired over the bar.

Roord’s instinctive flicked effort was then somehow clawed away by Grace Moloney.

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Arsenal continued to search for a winner, placing the Royals under some late pressure, but they were ultimately made to pay for a sloppy first-half performance and a lack of composure and quality in the final third.

“We were below par for the whole game today. We just didn’t get into our rhythm and didn’t position ourselves well enough for the passing opportunities and we need to fix that,” said manager Montemurro.

Arsenal now face West Ham on Sunday, January 24.

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