Jonas Eidevall has called on his team to relish the challenge that they face after drawing the first leg of their Champions League qualification playoff 2-2 with Ajax at Meadow Park.
The Gunners started slowly and fell behind when Romee Leuchter put the unfancied visitors in front. They fought back, however, thanks to a goal from Stina Blackstenius and a Kim Little penalty, but were pegged back late on as Leuchter fumbled home a scrappy goal against the run of play.
There was some controversy in the build-up to the goal as Caitlin Foord was flagged offside for a free-kick only for Ajax to take it in the Arsenal half, but Eidevall was not in the mood to focus on decisions that had gone against his side. Instead he has put the onus in his players to respond in style next week.
“You have to look forward,” he said when asked if he would be able to separate the promising second half performance from the disappointing result. “You have to say there are lessons in this game to be learned.
“You can argue based on objective chances we should have won, but we know that it’s even going into the next game. I believe in my team and we’ll create chances, but it’s up to us to go out and play. They’re not gonna make it easy for us, they’re gonna be there in every duel, but we have to be brave.
“If you want to go into the Champions League group stages you have to win those games. You can either be afraid of those challenges or look forward to them. I am (a person), and I want us to be a team that looks forward to challenges.”
Before Arsenal travel to Amsterdam for the second leg though, they face a North London Derby that is set to be played in front of a record-breaking crowd at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, with 45,000 tickets already sold. Despite now having to play that match with the return fixture against Ajax in the back of his mind, Eidevall was keen to state that he never felt it was going to be easy for his Gunners side.
“I didn’t expect that,” he said when asking if he had hoped to be able to take it slightly easier in the second leg. “It’s the Champions League, if you come here expecting to win 5-0 today and have it easy then I don’t know what kind of competition the Champions League 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. Our expectations were higher going into this game, but I never expected that we wouldn’t have to play next week. Now we know, it’s easy, we have to win!”