Matildas stalwart Steph Catley, back in Arsenal's starting line-up after injury, has helped trigger a remarkable fightback from the depleted Gunners at Wolfsburg in their Women's Champions League semi-final first leg.

The Australian international defender, recalled to the starting XI for the Gunners' biggest match of the season on Sunday, played a key role in the battling 2-2 draw in Germany which keeps their hopes alive of making the final of Europe's major women's tournament.

At 2-0 down just before halftime, it looked as if Arsenal could be facing the same bleak picture that fellow Women's Super League side Chelsea, with Matildas captain Sam Kerr in their ranks, had experienced on Saturday when they lost 1-0 at home to favourites Barcelona in the first leg of the other semi.

But it was wing-back Catley's pinpoint corner to the back post which resulted in Brazilian Rafaelle heading home, triggering a comeback that had looked wholly unlikely given the Gunners' current injury crisis.

Their other Matildas ace Caitlin Foord wasn't even in the squad again, still recovering from her hamstring problem, while they had also lost captain Kim Little and England skipper Leah Williamson to season-ending injuries earlier this week.

But Foord's prediction that Arsenal's closeness as a team had inspired a "fighting spirit" within them proved correct as they responded to a horror start against the team who had knocked them out of last season's competition.

And Catley, who had come off the bench to make her return in the league defeat at Manchester United in midweek, was a reassuring presence for manager Jonas Eidevall.

Ewa Pajor opened the scoring for the home side with her competition-leading eighth goal of the season in the 19th minute, before Iceland's Sveindis Jonsdottir cashed in on a mistake by Rafaelle to make it two just five minutes later.

But after the Brazilian defender had made amends by pegging one goal back, Stina Blackstenius earned Arsenal the unlikely draw by sliding in to meet Victoria Pelova's cross for the equaliser in the 69th minute.

It has set up a classic second leg at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium on May 1, with the London club saying 46,000 tickets have been sold already for the match, a record for a British game in the WCL.

Eidevall hailed his players afterwards, telling Sky Sports: "They were completely fearless and I admire that and am so proud of them for being that.

"The only thing that was important today was to get the result that we have everything to play for and to decide this game in London.

"Nothing is decided yet, but we have the chance now to play for everything, but so have Wolfsburg.

"If we can fill the Emirates, if we can get behind the team and rally behind it from the first second, it's going to make a difference.

"The atmosphere at the Emirates has been amazing this season, both for the men's and the women's games. So let's create another memorable game."

With PA