It’s A Blue Day At Meadow Park

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea

Words and Photos by Ben Gilby at Meadow Park (17/4/22)

Above: Winners are grinners – Jess Carter and Beth England are all smiles at the final whistle as Chelsea made it to Wembley. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Above: Meadow Park was packed for today’s FA Cup Semi-Final. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea’s ruthless second-half performance was more than enough to overcome Arsenal at a packed Meadow Park this afternoon as the holders made it through to a Wembley showdown with Manchester City next month.

Above: Beth Mead leaps for the ball for Arsenal between Chelsea’s Guro Reiten (11) and Sophie Ingle. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Whilst this game was far from the classic league encounter at Kingsmeadow or Chelsea’s sumptuous Wembley dismissal of the Gunners in December, the Blues proved once more that when it really matters, they can take their chances.

Above: Arsenal and Australia’s Steph Catley – just one of a number of players who only returned to club training at the end of this week. Photo: Ben Gilby.

The timing of this showdown was not helped by coming just days after the international window which saw both teams only being able to train with full numbers at the very last minute. Chelsea boss Emma Hayes identified this fact in her Friday media conference saying that teams “take a while to gel again after the international break.” This was certainly the case in the first half.

Above: Katie McCabe looks for options in the box in the first half. Photo: Ben Gilby.

It was Arsenal who settled first and had slightly more of the offensive play, but Jess Carter was outstanding at the back, shutting down any potential danger before the threat honed in on goal.

Above: Millie Bright (left) looks to close down. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Carter has grown hugely throughout the season. Earlier on, there were occasions when she appeared vulnerable against the very top players, but those days are long gone now. She has the strength, pace, and belief to mix it with and beat the very best. How she deserves the plaudits and international recognition that has come her way.

In truth, the first half was largely played out in the middle third and there was only one real opportunity that fell the way of Vivianne Miedema, but the shot went over the bar.

Above: Millie Bright looks to get up as a ball comes into the box. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Chelsea came out for the second period looking both energised and determined. There was a pep in their passing and crispness of vision that wasn’t quite there in the opening 45 minutes.

The outcome of this match effectively came within five minutes of the re-start. Beth Mead broke through for Arsenal but hit an effort wide. Chelsea’s characteristic ruthlessness then broke through to show the Gunners the importance of taking chances as Norwegian star Guro Reiten fired home a rocket shot from the edge of the box.

Above: Guro Reiten, Chelsea’s first goal scorer tackles Beth Mead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

The Blues kept pushing with Beth England a ball of energy and Ji becoming more involved across the midfield.

After Gunners keeper Manuela Zinsberger was forced to deny both Sophie Ingle and Reiten, it was the Korean magician who pulled out her magic wand to double Chelsea’s advantage by smashing a shot in off the crossbar before being buried by an avalanche of team-mates.

Above: Chelsea celebrate Ji’s goal which put them 2-0 up and earned their place at Wembley. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Arsenal brought on Frida Maanum, Nikita Parris, and Tobin Heath, but Chelsea were comfortable in the closing stages. Emma Hayes’ side are back at Wembley and for the second domestic Cup Final this season face Manchester City. It’s going to be quite a game.

Above: Tobin Heath’s introduction was not enough for Arsenal. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Teams: ARSENAL (4-3-3): Zinsburger, McCabe, Williamson, Wubben-Moy, Catley, Little, Miedema, Wälti, Mead, Blackstenius, Foord. Substitutes used: Maanum (for Wälti), Parris (for Blackstenius), Heath (for Foord).

CHELSEA (3-5-2): Bright, Nouwen, Carter, Charles, Ingle, Ji, Cuthbert, Reiten, England, Kerr. Substitutes used: Fleming (for Ji), Harder (for Kerr).

Scorers: Reiten 50′, Ji 61′.

Referee: Rebecca Welch.

Attendance: 3,458.

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