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Arsenal LFC's often dramatic UEFA Women's Champions League run may have been ended one step from the London final by Olympique Lyonnais, but striker Ellen White will not be forgetting it in a hurry.
Beaten 2-0 at the Stade de Gerland in last week's first leg, Arsenal went agonisingly close through Jordan Nobbs in the opening minute of the return before the visitors took control and raced into a three-goal lead at the break. The Gunners eventually pegged it back to 3-2 on the day with goals from Julie Fleeting and White, who found solace in the late recovery despite her disappointment at the semi-final defeat.
"I think the first 40 seconds were what we are all about really," White told UEFA.com. "Pressing then getting in a shot, but the goalkeeper tipped it onto the post, so that was disappointing not to get that goal. I think we should have pushed on from there.
"In the next few minutes, we should have passed a bit more and then they got the three goals. I think we showed a lot of character, a lot of team spirit in the second half not to crumble. A lot of teams would have crumbled. As a team, we played much better in the second half."
Manager Laura Harvey concurred. "
The first and probably third goal came from our mistakes," she said. "When you play a team like Lyon, they are going to punish you with that. In the second half we did a lot better; some other teams and some other players would have just let it go, but that's why our lot are where they are."
White, a former Gunners trainee who returned after five years away last summer, was enjoying her first European campaign. Though the 21-year-old admitted Arsenal have "a lot to learn" against sides like Lyon, she has loved the experience of a run that included dramatic comebacks against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and Linköpings FC.
"I've only just come this season to Arsenal and it's been amazing," the England striker said. "I went to Lyon, in front of a 20,000 crowd and you can't explain in words how it feels. It's been brilliant. It's been a different level of football, but Lyon played amazingly – they're a great side.
Every team we've played has been really good; it's a whole different world of football."
Harvey, whose side aim to ensure a European return next Sunday by beating Barnet LFC in the FA Women's Cup semi-finals, is hopeful her young team can go one step further next season. "Last year, when we got knocked out against [FCR 2001 Duisburg in the quarter-finals], we said we had to look at what we don't do very well," she explained.
"I think we have improved. On the ball we're a little bit better, as a team we're collectively a little bit better, but against the top teams you have to reduce the number of mistakes you make. And a team like Lyon will always take chances and create things and we got punished for that over two legs. Within 12 months, we can really get together a team that can push on and do exciting things."
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