Arsenal 4-1 Chelsea: Gunners go level at WSL summit after stunning derby win

A historic clash of two Barclays Women’s Super League titans was set to take place at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, with Arsenal hosting Chelsea – the reigning champions. Just three points separated the two sides, though the Blues would remain top regardless of the result due to their superior goal difference.

As expected, the match set a new attendance record for a women’s league fixture in England, with 59,042 fans flooding through the turnstiles in North London.

ARS: Zinsberger; Catley, Wubben-Moy, Ilestedt, McCabe; Wälti, Pelova; Foord, Little, Mead; Russo

CHE: Berger; Charles, Carter, Mjelde, Périsset; Cuthbert, Nüsken; James, Fleming, Kaneryd; Kerr

Perhaps spurred on by a sizeable home crowd, the Gunners looked to pile the pressure on Chelsea’s backline from the start at Emirates Stadium – with Niamh Charles and Jess Carter both called upon in the opening minutes to deny promising advances.

But Jonas Eidevall’s side would take the lead with just eight minutes on the clock, after sublime work from Caitlin Foord on the left flank created space for Beth Mead inside the box. Twisting around a defender, the England international thundered an effort into the roof of the net, beating Ann-Katrin Berger in the process.

Their lead was short-lived though. A flowing move saw a series of passes evade an onslaught of Arsenal bodies, culminating in Johanna Rytting Kaneryd being granted space inside the penalty area to cut inside. Jinking past Steph Catley, she was able to sneak an effort in at the near post – much to the frustration of Zinsberger.

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The tempo of the match didn’t subside after Chelsea’s equaliser, but a noticeable lack of clear-cut chances became apparent until the half hour mark. With a little under ten minutes of the first half remaining, the Gunners restored their hard-fought lead as Amanda Ilestedt nodded home into an empty net from Steph Catley’s corner delivery – capitalising on a positional error from Berger, who had come to collect the corner.

Celebrations had barely been afforded time to die down before the Emirates Stadium crowd were on their feet once more, with Alessia Russo adding a third goal just two minutes later. Given the freedom of London on the left flank, the ex-Manchester United star darted towards goal, slotting a composed finish past Berger to put Jonas Eidevall’s team in complete control.

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Evidently furious with her team’s collapse at the latter end of the first half, Emma Hayes made three alterations to her side at the interval. Sjoeke Nüsken, Eve Périsset and Maren Mjelde were absent as Chelsea returned to the field, replaced by Fran Kirby, Ashleigh Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan respectively.

Hayes’ changes certainly limited the Gunners attacking output, as the hosts were forced to defend on numerous occasions – with Catley in particular providing a vital interception to dispossess Rytting Kaneryd inside the box.

A foray into the Chelsea box would prove fruitful for the Gunners with just over fifteen minutes left to play, as Russo was felled after a collision with Carter and Berger inside the area. The referee was quick to award a penalty, which was duly dispatched past the goalkeeper by Russo – cueing yet more emphatic celebrations.

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Stina Blackstenius had the opportunity to make it five from the bench after being played through on goal by Frida Maanum – but the Swedish international blazed her effort over the bar, squandering a golden opportunity to rub further salt into Chelsea wounds.

Chelsea remain top of the Barclays Women’s Super League despite Sunday’s defeat, as the Gunners rise to second in the league standings. They’re now level on points with the Blues, separated solely by goal difference.

The Blues host BK Häcken in midweek before travelling to Bristol City’s Ashton Gate next weekend, while Arsenal prepare for back-to-back North London Derbies. They’ll host Tottenham in the Conti Cup in midweek, before visiting the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.