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Katie Chapman scored a dramatic injury time winner as Arsenal overturned a two-goal deficit to beat Rayo Vallecano 4-1 and book their place in the quarter finals of the UEFA Women's Champions League.
It seemed as though the Gunners were on their way out when conceding a late away goal and being reduced to ten players when Gilly Flaherty was sent off for violent conduct, but Laura Harvey's side dug deep to make sure they take their place once again amongst Europe's top eight.
The match started in a torrential downpour and strong wind but Arsenal got the start they desperately wanted. Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little both had efforts scrambled off the line but Rachel Yankey put them in front with an inswinging cross-cum-shot which evaded everyone and skidded into the far corner.
Natalia fired a shot over the bar but a Yankey cross just evaded both Nobbs and Gemma Davison in front of goal at the other end. The game went through a quiet spell leading into the break but it took a brilliant save from Emma Byrne to keep the Gunners in front at the break, tipping a speculative 30-yard strike by Adriana over the bar.
Adriana was just off target with a volley at the start of the second half and Sonia wasted a great chance as she broke through but poked her shot wide with only Byrne to beat.
The introduction of Julie Fleeting as substitute gave Arsenal fresh impetus and the Scottish striker was to make an instant impact. Little cut inside and beat her marker and, although her shot was parried by Alicia Prada, Fleeting hooked the rebound back into the net despite Vallecano efforts to keep the ball out.
Fleeting again went close when her shot was deflected wide after Niamh Fahey had exchanged passes with Jayne Ludlow before crossing. The resulting corner, taken by Little, picked out Ciara Grant who planted a firm downward header to put Arsenal in front in the tie for the first time.
However Rayo hit back ten minutes later, Adriana breaking through on goal and rounded Byrne before coolly slotting the ball past the two covering Arsenal defenders to put her side back in front on away goals.
Things got even worse for Arsenal three minutes later as Flaherty broke down the left where, after being tackled by Ana Mingorance, stepped on the full back as she led on the floor and was shown a red card. The young defender could have no excuses for her indiscretion which, although out of character, had put her side's backs against the wall.
Nevertheless Arsenal still threw players forward and struck a decisive blow in the second minute of injury time. Little played a free kick into the area where Jennifer Beattie challenged and Chapman forced the ball home to claim the winner.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Steph Houghton, Niamh Fahey, Jayne Ludlow, Gilly Flaherty, Katie Chapman, Ciara Grant (sub Jennifer Beattie 84mins), Jordan Nobbs (sub Ellen White 80mins), Gemma Davison (sub Julie Fleeting 59mins), Kim Little, Rachel Yankey. Subs not used: Rebecca Spencer, Yvonne Tracy, Faye White, Danielle Carter.
Rayo Vallecano: Alicia Prada, Ana Mingorance, Sonia Ruiz, Cristina Leandro, Rosillo, Miriam, Natalia (sub Claudia Sanchez 72mins), Rocio Molinero, Adriana, Sonia, Jennifer Fuentes (sub Cristina Pizarro 81mins). Subs not used: Estefana Guisado, Maria Pilar, Saray Garcia.
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