Chelsea recover from early blow to end Arsenal’s unbeaten run | Football
The visiting team had taken an early lead through Danielle van de Donk but Beth England, who scored on her first start for the Lionesses on Tuesday, levelled in style.
If Chelsea were out for revenge for the 5-0 drubbing Arsenal dealt out at Kingsmeadow almost exactly one year ago, then it showed. The Blues began powerfully, Fran Kirby looking particularly fresh as they went on the offensive. Kirby found herself in space and broke to the byline but failed to beat Manuela Zinsberger from a very tight angle.
There had been some pride clawed back in a 2-1 win away in January, and a 3-0 FA Cup victory, but by then Chelsea were well out of the race to defend their league title and Arsenal were in the depths an injury crisis.
In south-west London on this occasion, both teams were back to full strength and ready to prove their title credentials.
Where it took Arsenal 21 minutes to unlock Chelsea’s defence last time this term the champions needed just nine. Vivianne Miedema, who has scored four of Arsenal’s 18 goals in all competitions this season, danced into the box before slipping the ball to compatriot Van de Donk who coolly slotted past Ann-Katrin Berger.
It was somewhat of a relief for the Gunners, who looked bright going forward but struggled to contain the pace and slick passing between Kirby, Guro Reiten and the slick Ji So-yun.
Chelsea searched for the reply, and Ji was at the heart of every positive attack. Lia Wälti, making her first league start as Arsenal ease her back into action following injury, was robbed by Ji in the middle and the South Korean broke into the box, turned round Jen Beattie but lashed her left-footed shot just wide from 20 yards out.
Chelsea upped the ante, Reiten rattling the crossbar from distance after Kirby had again fired wide from an acute angle. Shortly after Millie Bright who, like Kirby was absent from England’s recent camp, ensured the margin was kept at one, sliding in to smoothly dispossess Miedema who was clean through the middle.
After the break Chelsea came out with the bit between their teeth. England, who had been a little anonymous in the first half, was the first to trouble the Arsenal back line, picking up Ji’s pinpoint cross but firing over. Moments later she latched on to a long clearance down the right and drilled a low cross straight at Zinsberger.
With Arsenal looking shell shocked at the onslaught, it felt inevitable that they would soon relinquish the lead, and it was England who capitalised.
Beattie was dispossessed in the middle by a hungrier Kirby who steamed into the space left by Katie McCabe in Beattie’s absence before squaring to England who, with her back to goal, flicked it up, swivelled and volleyed past Zinsberger from close range.
If Arsenal needed an impetus to raise their intensity then the equaliser provided it, but Chelsea continued to press with intent. To add strength in the middle the Arsenal coach, Joe Montemurro, swapped Wälti for the fresh legs of Jordan Nobbs but with their bench options limited and Chelsea throwing on Bachmann and Thorisdottir for Kirby and Reiten the edge stayed with the Blues.
With five minutes left to play Bachmann squared to the Norwegian Thorisdottir who slammed home from 25 yards.