Arsenal's Asante stands tall

Anita Asante has played out of position in the Arsenal LFC defence this season but believes the hard work has paid off after the first-leg defeat of Umeå IK.

Umeå IK struck eleven goals over two legs in both the UEFA Women's Cup quarter and semi-finals. That they drew a blank in the 1-0 defeat by Arsenal LFC in the first leg of the final on Saturday afternoon was due in no small part to a determined effort from the visiting defence.

Out of position
At the heart of that back line was the towering Anita Asante, a midfielder who has stepped back for Arsenal and England this season in the absence through injury of Faye White, Leanne Champ and Yvonne Tracy. Asante believes the performance in Sweden was proof of how she and her colleagues have coped with those losses this season, telling "The whole team pulled together. Some of us are playing out of position but we want it so badly we are prepared to put in that extra graft, work and communicate and we proved it today."

'Absolutely ecstatic'
In their first final compared to Umeå's fourth, Arsenal are now in pole position to lift the trophy ahead of their home leg next Sunday and Asante is delighted. "I'm absolutely ecstatic," she said. "All the girls grafted for that result and we just gave it our best, Obviously it was quite testing. We were playing against international standard players of great class and quality. And it is good to be able test ourselves as individuals, a back-four unit and as a team."

Top-class opponents
It was especially impressive considering they were lined up against the likes of Marta, Hanna Ljungberg and Lise Klaveness, whose reputations go before them, providing a contrast from the English domestic scene which Arsenal dominate with seeming ease. "It is a brilliant experience playing against them," Asante said. "On the ball they have great movement it meant we had to stay switched on and mentally on our toes, it is good for us to have to do that."