FROM KINGSMEADOW – Chelsea have moved to within touching distance of a fourth consecutive WSL title following Sunday’s 2-0 win over Arsenal.
3,456 fans flocked to the Blue’s home, which has become a fortress for Emma Hayes’ side. Goals from Guro Reiten and departing skipper Madgalena Erikkson solidified their top-of-the-table spot, with the Manchester derby later in the day having the potential to hand them the title if Manchester United fail to beat Manchester City.
Knowing that their prize was now so close, Chelsea were piling the pressure on as the Gunners struggled to move out of their own third.
Inevitably, Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net after Sam Kerr broke down Arsenal’s back line, but with the offside flag swiftly raised, the breakthrough was still to be sought.
Playing on the counter, Stina Blackstenius had Arsenal’s best early chances of the game. Ann-Katrin Berger was forced to make an impressive stop to deny the Swede the opener, the rebound was swiftly picked up by skipper Katie McCabe and concurrently dealt with by Eve Perriset.
The deadlock was broken 22 minutes in as those in blue were each lining up to each take a shot. It was Reiten who, despite slipping during the shot, managed to send the ball past Manuela Zinsberger after being left completely unmarked in the box.
Getting her eighth league goal this season, along with 10 assists, displaying exactly the reason the Norweigan winger was nominated for Barclays WSL Player of the Season.
Frida Maanum looking to level the score forced an impressive save from Berger, the woodwork eventually saving Chelsea from conceding the equaliser.
In her last home appearance for Chelsea, skipper Eriksson tapped home Reiten’s free-kick. After announcing her departure from the club after six years, she got to Sam Kerr’s header before Zinsberger could get her clutches to the ball, doubling the lead just before half-time.
Frustrations rising for Arsenal, McCabe joined Lotte Wubben-Moy, who was booked for an earlier foul on Kerr, in referee Abigail Byrne’s book after a challenge on Perisset.
With Pernille Harder looking to get in on the action in the opening minutes of the second half, she forced a big save from Zinsberger as Arsenal had a mountain to climb to be able to make their way back into the game, with Caitlin Foord’s shot hitting the bar to deny the Aussie forward.
McCabe’s long-distance effort earned the Gunners a penalty when it struck Sophie Ingle’s outstretched arms, but the skipper sent the spot kick wide before Berger could even get a hand to it. McCabe also missed the last penalty she took in their WSL clash against Leicester, and this one gave Arsenal a mammoth task of breaking back into the game as the hour mark rolled around.
With both sides troubling the others’ defenses, it seemed Chelsea were not content with just two goals, pressuring Arsenal for a third. At the other end of the pitch, Berger, once again, was called into an important and impressive saved to maintain her clean sheet.
Another mistake in Arsenal’s defences nearly made the afternoon worse for Jonas Eidevall’s side as Zinsberger scrambled a save on the line as Chelsea claimed all three points, leading the title race once again.
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Unable to keep a clean sheet but minimised what could have been a larger scoreline.
CB: Lotte Wubben Moy – 6/10 – Struggled against Harder and was dispossessed a few times, leading to nervy moments for the Gunners.
CB: Jen Beattie – 7/10 – Made some important blocks, both leadership and defensive ability pivotal at the back.
CB: Rafaelle Souza – 6/10 – Provided an attacking option moving forward but was kept tied up proving an extra defensive option.
RM: Noelle Maritz – 6/10- Was needed more defensively so was unable to help with attacking options on the right.
CM: Frida Maanum – 7/10- Had Arsenal’s best chance of the first half.
CM: Katherine Kuhl – 6/10 – Struggled against Charles on the wing and to break into the game, made some good runs towards the final third. Subbed at half time.
LM: Katie McCabe – 6/10 – Forced to play more defensively, limiting her attacking presence. Moving further up the pitch following changes made her more invovled but missed the crucial penalty.
RF: Victoria Pelova – 8/10 – Link up with Maanum proved dangerous at times. Did well against Ingle’s defensive ability.
LF: Caitlin Foord – 7/10 – Managed to break past Perisset but was relatively contained on the wings.
ST: Stina Blackstenius – 6/10- Struggled to find a way through Chelsea’s back line. Did well to apply pressure to Berger.
SUB: Steph Catley (45′ for Kuhl ) – 7/10 – Link up with Catley improved with her inclusion, injected some more pace into the side.
SUB: Jodie Taylor (74′ for Blackstenius ) – N/A
SUB: Lina Hurtig (79′ for Maritz ) – N/A
SUB: Gio (87′ for Beattie ) – N/A
Jonas Eidevall – 6/10 – Ran out of options to make a change to the game and struggled with creativity when the game did not go to plan.
GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 7/10 – Maintained a clean sheet and made some big saves to deny Arsenal.
RB: Eve Perisset – 8/10 – Managed to keep a lid on Foord but removed her from the attacking options moving forward.
CB: Maren Mjelde – 7/10 – Seems to always show up for Chelsea in the big games, made an important save to deny Maanum.
CB: Madgalena Erikson – 7/10 – Scored on her last home game whilst partnering Mjelde very well to keep Arsenal’s attempts minimal.
LB: Niamh Charles – 8/10 – Played significantly better upon moving to the wing and rarely troubled by Arsenal’s full-backs.
CM: Sophie Ingle: – 7/10 – Gave away the penalty but did well against Pelova to keep her quiet.
CM: Erin Cuthbert – 8/10 – Dominated the midfield and dictated the pace of the game.
RM: Lauren James – 6/10 – Did well to maintain possession and press Arsenal but struggled to break forward.
AM: Pernille Harder – 8/10 – Troubled Arsenal’s back line far too easily.
LM: Guro Reiten – 8/10 – Found herself in right places at the right times.
ST: Sam Kerr – 8/10 – Might not have got a goal but put Arsenal under pressure enough times and had a free header.
SUB: Jess Carter (62′ for James ) – 7/10- Provided some impressive blocks to keep Arsenal’s attempts out.
SUB: Jessie Fleming (72′ for Harder ) – 7/10- Played well but struggled to have a big impact on the game.
SUB: Kadeisha Buchanan (83′ for Perisset ) – N/A
Emma Hayes – 8/10 – Made smart rotations to keep the pace and remained unbeaten at home all season.