Arsenal 1-0 (aet) Chelsea: Blackstenius bags late to see Gunners retain Conti Cup title

Arsenal left it late to clinch a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in the 2024 Conti Cup Final, with Stina Blackstenius’ goal in the 116th minute enough to retain their title and end the Blues hopes of a quadruple.

Mayra Ramírez had seen a first-half effort denied for handball, before the dying seconds of stoppage time brought on serious concern for Arsenal’s Frida Maanum after she collapsed off-the-ball. The club have since confirmed that she is well.

Blackstenius’ late winner in front of the travelling Arsenal fans ensures that the Gunners lift silverware this season, after eliminations from the UEFA Women’s Champions League and Adobe Women’s FA Cup.

Embed from Getty Images

As it happened

Chelsea began the search for their first of four possible titles this season positively, forcing a number of half-chances in the opening minutes – with half-hearted appeals coming shortly after the ten-minute mark as a stray leg from Kim Little on the edge of the box halted Lauren James’ progress into the penalty area.

The Gunners were largely limited to chances on the break, and an Emily Fox delivery looked to threaten Hannah Hampton. The Chelsea goalkeeper fumbled the ball inside the box, recovering well though to deny Cloe Lacasse an early opener at Molineux.

Emma Hayes’ side thought that they had opened the scoring mere moments later though, as Mayra Ramírez tucked a neat strike into the bottom-left corner, past the outstretched arms of Manuela Zinsberger. With VAR in use at Molineux, the Colombian’s effort was disallowed after Erin Cuthbert was adjudged to have assisted the January signing with her forearm.

Embed from Getty Images

Hampton was the busier of the two keepers as the half progressed though, with the 23-year-old called into action to collect a tame Lacasse strike at the near post before tipping a fierce effort from Katie McCabe over the crossbar.

The Blues were afforded a golden opportunity to seize the lead with ten first-half minutes remaining after Ramírez played James through on goal – but the England international took a touch too many, ultimately resigning her to roll her effort well wide of the target.

A dramatic start to the second half saw chances for both sides, and the first yellow card of the match. Lauren James was booked for an off-the-ball barge on Laia Codina, with Arsenal’s Spanish centre-half requiring a new pair of boots after the tussle.

Arsenal appeared to grow in confidence as the match wore on, but Jonas Eidevall’s side lacked composure in front of goal. Victoria Pelova overhit a pass out wide to Mead to bring an abrupt end to a Lacasse-initiated counterattack, before Maanum blazed her effort over the bar after eying Hampton off her line.

Embed from Getty Images

Pelova would look to redeem herself shortly after the hour mark, threading a well-placed through ball into the path of Lacasse – but the onrushing Hampton was able to smother the Canadian’s shot as frustrations grew for Eidevall’s side and the raucous red wall that had formed behind the goal in the Sir Jack Hayward Stand.

The final fifteen minutes would too bear chances for both sides, with James fluffing a great chance to hand Chelsea the lead with five minutes remaining on the matchday clock – spurning her effort wide of the far post via a deflection off the outstretched leg of Zinsberger.

The Gunners would also force one final chance before seven minutes of stoppage time, with Fox’s through ball for Stina Blackstenius slightly overhit, allowing Hampton to lay claim to the ball before the Scandinavian forward could muster up a shot.

But there would be a lengthy stoppage in play as a result of serious concern for Arsenal’s Frida Maanum, after the Norwegian collapsed off the ball. A team of more than ten medics worked on her on the pitch, before carefully manoeuvring her onto a stretcher – with the club going on to confirm that she is ‘conscious, talking and in a stable condition.’

With both sides visibly shaken and the match still goalless, an additional thirty minutes were in order at Molineux. Guro Reiten’s delivery from the left was met by James inside the box, though she could only watch in despair as she blasted over the target.

But both sides appeared rejuvenated after a momentary pause before the final period, with Blackstenius blazing over the bar – and James going on to do the same at the other end, all within the space of two minutes.

The Gunners would fashion the best chance of the dying stages, as Kyra Cooney-Cross picked out her Matildas teammate Caitlin Foord. The winger opted to tee up Alessia Russo, but the ex-United forward couldn’t threaten Hampton with her effort.

It wouldn’t be long before they broke the deadlock though – and Foord would play an instrumental role. The Australian played in Blackstenius, with the Swedish striker dispatching past Hampton at the second time of asking after her initial effort was thwarted by Cuthbert.

Embed from Getty Images

A testing match, both physically and mentally, brought an end to Chelsea’s hopes of securing the quadruple in Emma Hayes’ final season with the club – while ensuring that Arsenal will not end this season without silverware.

The lineups

ARS: Zinsberger; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Williamson, Fox; Pelova, Little; Lacasse, Maanum, Mead; Blackstenius

CHE: Hampton; Charles, Buchanan, Carter, Périsset; Cuthbert, Leupolz; Kaneryd, Nüsken, James; Ramírez