October 24, 2021

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USWNT star Heath scores first Arsenal goal and first in the Women’s Champions League in Hoffenheim win

USWNT star Heath scores first Arsenal goal and first in the Women’s Champions League in Hoffenheim win
The winger doubled the Gunners' lead on the stroke of half time in their UWCL clash with Frauen-Bundesliga side HoffenheimU.S. women's national team star Tobin Heath scored her first Arsenal goal, which was also her first Women's Champions League goal, on Thursday in a win over Hoffenheim. The Gunners lost their first game of the group…

The winger doubled the Gunners’ lead on the stroke of half time in their UWCL clash with Frauen-Bundesliga side Hoffenheim

U.S. women’s national team star Tobin Heath scored her first Arsenal goal, which was also her first Women’s Champions League goal, on Thursday in a win over Hoffenheim.

The Gunners lost their first game of the group stages to reigning champions Barcelona last week, humbled by the Catalan side in a 4-1 defeat.

However, they were 4-0 victors on home soil against their German opponents, with Heath on the scoresheet for the first time for the club she supports.

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A historic night for Heath

The USWNT winger was making just her third start for Arsenal in the game against Hoffenheim and it came almost eight years to the day since she last featured in a starting XI in the UWCL, for Paris Saint-Germain back in 2013.

Against a tricky opponent with plenty of attacking threats, the London side won a penalty midway through the first half as Beth Mead got a toe on the ball just ahead of defender Michaela Specht, which was coolly dispatched by captain Kim Little for her eighth goal of the season.

Arsenal started to grow into the game more from there and some fluid football gave them a two-goal cushion just before the break, as Heath swept home. A terrific cross from left-back Katie McCabe was met perfectly by striker Vivianne Miedema, who headed it right into the path of the Gunners’ No.77 to tuck away with her right foot.

It was her first goal for her new club, after she joined last month, and also her first in the European competition, with her playing twice for PSG in the 2013-14 edition of the competition, but not finding the back of the net.

“It felt really good to get off the mark and obviously with the whole team bouncing back, getting four goals today, that was a good response after the Barcelona game,” Heath said. “We showed a lot of character. We came out with kind of a singular focus, you know? To be able to help with that to get a goal, especially the second goal, I feel like it’s an important goal to get a little bit of space, especially the way Hoffenheim was playing.”

Miedema added a third shortly after half time, pouncing on the rebound of Jordan Nobbs’ saved shot, before Leah Williamson headed in a McCabe corner to make it four.

“[Miedema is] obviously fantastic and a big piece of the puzzle here,” Heath said, “and I’m just excited to continue to tick on because I feel like we haven’t even had that much time.

“I’m looking forward to getting in training and really forging some really positive relationships because the diversity in our attack is fantastic. There’s a lot of weapons we have and a lot of ways that we can threaten teams. It’s really, really fun for me.”

How are Heath and Arsenal doing?

The Gunners have got off to a blistering start to their season, winning all but one of their first 12 games of the season.

They kicked things off with UWCL qualifying, beating Kazakhstan side Okzhetpes and PSV Eindhoven to set up a second round, two-legged tie against Slavia Prague, which they won to reach the group stages.

They’re yet to drop a point in the Women’s Super League, beating both Chelsea and Manchester City, likely to be their closest rivals for the title. They are in the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup too, hammering north London rivals Tottenham 5-1 in the competition which has been carried over from last season.

Heath made her debut in the 5-0 battering of Man City and provided an assist in the 4-0 win over Aston Villa earlier this month, teeing up another World Cup winner, Japan international Mana Iwabuchi, to score.

“She’s a great player, Tobin,” head coach Jonas Eidevall said this week. “I really feel like she’s settling in, both in the group and in the way that we want to play.”

Heath, meanwhile, said on Thursday that the club was “exactly” what she wanted in her career.

“The quality players make it fun and easy and I think Jonas has brought a style that is going to take the club to the next level and to push on,” she added. 

“You can already tell in training and games, this team is ambitious to get better and to take the next step so with each of these games, we learn something and we grow against other teams but we also learn about ourselves.”

NWSL solidarity ‘very emotional’

After NWSL players staged a demonstration against sexual abuse in women’s football earlier this month, clubs across Europe have followed suit, with Arsenal among those who have stood together in solidarity with United States teams.

Heath has been particularly moved as someone who played many years in the NWSL and has close USWNT friends competing in the league.

“Obviously I played in the NWSL for most of my career so it was definitely a very emotional and hard time and it was great to see the players in the WSL standing with the NWSL players in a moment because this is not just, although the spotlight is on the NWSL, this isn’t just an isolated issue there,” Heath said. 

“It’s all over women’s football and I think that because of the very hard things that have been going on, in the NWSL and the light that’s been shone on it, it’s made people brave, not just there, but elsewhere to speak up about the various issues and hopefully, at the end of the day, we need a mass kind of reformation, but a lot of healing too. It was, I think a beautiful picture of women’s football coming together.”

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