‘You get nothing for free’ - Arsenal manager makes demand of players amid harsh Champions League reality
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall insists that his players embrace the challenge of securing qualification to the Champions League group stage away at Ajax next week.
The Gunners failed to establish a strong footing in their home leg at Meadow Park on Tuesday night, coming from behind to lead before surrendering the advantage in the final ten minutes.
After Romée Leuchter gave the visitors a surprise lead in the 17th minute, Arsenal responded well as Stina Blackstenius levelled the score from close range just five minutes later.
The hosts struggled to get a grip on the tie, starved of possession by Ajax’s high pressing game, but were able to capitalise on their opponents physicality when Beth Mead won a penalty for her side after she was pushed in the box.
Arsenal captain Kim Little put her side in the driving seat from the spot-kick but the home team failed to take an advantage into the second leg after scrappy defending allowed Leuchter to bag a second in the 83rd minute.
When Eidevall’s team travel to Amsterdam for the second leg next Wednesday, they must win in order to progress to the Champions League group stage - with a draw set to send the tie to extra time and penalties.
In his post-match press conference, Eidevall rebutted a suggestion that the favoured team missed an opportunity to take a large lead into the away leg.
“I didn’t expect that,” Eidevall said.
“It’s the Champions League - if you come here expecting to win 5-0 today then I don’t know what kind of competition it would be.
“For me this was always going to be a two-leg affair.
“Do I wish we came away with a stronger performance and result? Yes, I won’t hide that. But I never expected it to not be two legs.
“We know we have to win, and it won’t be easy. You get nothing for free in the Champions League.
“We always knew this was going to be hard.”
With his sights set on group stage qualification, Eidevall is targeting the second leg as an opportunity to define his group’s character.
“You have to look forward,” he said.
“It’s gonna be an intense game next week but we have to be brave.
“If you want to go into the Champions League group stage you have to win those games. You can either be afraid of those challenges or look forward to them.
“I want us to be the team that looks forward to them.”