Fresh off the back of the club’s third consecutive FA Cup win, Chelsea welcomed Arsenal to Kingsmeadow on Sunday in a clash that could define the outcome of the season for both sides. Three points for Chelsea could be enough to clinch the FA Women’s Super League title – if Manchester United slip up at home to Manchester City later in the day.
As for Arsenal, they will look to secure third place – and the final qualifying spot for next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League. A win at Kingsmeadow would be enough to secure qualification if Manchester United manage to defeat their local rivals in the evening kick-off. The Gunners do still have a chance of lifting league silverware this year, though that would only occur if both Chelsea and United slip up.
CHE: Berger; Charles, Eriksson, Mjelde, Perisset; Cuthbert, Ingle; Reiten, Harder, James; Kerr
ARS: Zinsberger; Rafaelle, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Maritz; Maanum, Kuhl, McCabe; Pelova, Blackstenius, Foord
Guro Reiten looked to create a handful of chances inside the opening minutes – first with a teasing cross from the left flank, before attempting to pick out Pernille Harder with a ball over the top. Manuela Zinsberger was equal to both attempts though, and the Blues would have to work harder to take the lead.
Lauren James looked to dance infield, though she was hauled to the ground before she could line up a shot. That could have prompted an Arsenal counterattack, but a well-timed tackle from Erin Cuthbert saw Kathrine Kuhl’s run brought to an abrupt end.
Stina Blackstenius surged down the left flank, cutting inside to lay the ball off to a teammate – but Eve Perisset did well to dispossess Katie McCabe on the edge of the penalty area and bring an end to the chance.
The Gunners should have opened the scoring with thirteen minutes on the clock, as Caitlin Foord released Stina Blackstenius down the left once more – and the Swedish forward managed to get a shot off, though it was well smothered by Ann-Katrin Berger. Chelsea seemed comfortable in possession, though they’d certainly have to remain alert to ensure their opponents weren’t given the opportunity to counterattack.
The opener came in the 23rd minute – and Emma Hayes’ Chelsea were well on their way to claiming yet another WSL title. A well-placed cross-field ball from Eve Perisset gave Guro Reiten space at the back post, firing a shot into the far corner that Manuela Zinsberger wasn’t able to keep out.
It could have been level soon after, as Frida Maanum’s shot from the edge of the box forced a save from Ann-Katrin Berger – the ‘keeper was able to get fingertips to it and preserve Chelsea’s lead for the time being.
Both Katie McCabe and Frida Maanum stood over the ball as Arsenal won a free-kick from distance. The latter stepped up to strike, coming close to picking out the top-left corner though Ann-Katrin Berger made the save with relative ease.
The hosts doubled their lead with less than five minutes to play before the interval. A free-kick delivered to the back post was nodded across the face of goal by Sam Kerr, ultimately being bundled over the line by club captain Magdalena Eriksson. The defender will be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season – and that’s a very nice way to mark her final Kingsmeadow appearance.
Chelsea held a well-earned two-goal advantage at the break, and they had been the better side in all honesty. Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal would be rueing their missed opportunities, including Stina Blackstenius’ smothered strike in the thirteenth minute.
Guro Reiten initiated a lovely move on the left flank at the start of the second half, picking out Sam Kerr who then laid the ball off to Pernille Harder – the Dane sat Lotte Wubben-Moy down before firing a shot away, though Manuela Zinsberger was able to send it behind for a corner.
Katie McCabe had a chance to claw one back for the Gunners from the penalty spot as the game reached the hour mark, after her volleyed effort was blocked by the arms of Sophie Ingle inside the box. The Arsenal midfielder missed the target altogether though, and fired wide of the right post.
That chance seemed to spark life back into the Arsenal attack, as a shot from distance looked to nestle quite nicely in the bottom-left corner – but for the outstretched arm of Ann-Katrin Berger to keep Frida Maanum’s effort out.
It looked as if they’d be able to halve the deficit with less than five minutes left to play, as sloppy passing among the Chelsea defence allowed Jodie Taylor to rush through on goal. She opted to lay it off to Lina Hurtig on the right though, and she couldn’t find the required finishing touch.
Knowing that the title fight may well be decided on goal difference, Chelsea continued their search for a third goal in the dying minutes of the match. Having won a corner, it looked as if Guro Reiten would provide a stunning end to the fixture – but the Norwegian’s strike from the edge of the box was sent over the crossbar.
It’s yet another resounding win for Chelsea – and they could be confirmed as WSL Champions should Manchester United lose to Manchester City later in the day. As for Arsenal, they’re now mathematically out of the title fight, as they couldn’t replicate their Conti Cup Final performance to clinch a win against Emma Hayes’ Blues.