Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
by Darrell Allen at The Emirates Stadium.
EXCLUSIVE photos from Hannah Parnell pitchside at The Emirates (16/1/23)
Above: Sam Kerr makes her point to the Arsenal fans after scoring a late, late leveller at The Emirates. Photo: Hannah Parnell for Impetus.
Big Crowd, Big Performance
Arsenal are making a habit of this now with a third Women’s Super League game at the Emirates this season drawing a crowd in excess of 40,000. On a day when the Gunners’ men’s team were playing in their North London Derby away at Tottenham this is a level of support that cannot be ignored.
46,811 tickets were sold for this Sunday lunchtime blockbuster between arguably the two most successful English teams in the WSL era and Arsenal put in a performance to match the occasion.
From the off, Arsenal were a yard faster and more energetic across the park than their visitors from South West London. Caitlin Foord, in particular, impressed with her movement and passing as Arsenal got in behind their opponents on numerous occasions in the opening half of play.
There are certainly mixed views on the penalty awarded by referee Emily Heaslip to Arsenal as, whilst Foord fell inside the box, the initial contact from Niamh Charles started outside.
But the pressure was on the penalty taker regardless and it was captain Kim Little who stepped up to take, and convert, the kick – and in doing so sent the thousands of Arsenal fans, and their coach Jonas Eidevall into raptures.
A Champions Result?
Chelsea will feel this was a performance well below what they are capable of with none of their attacking players getting into their usual flow. Sam Kerr was isolated a lot of the time and Erin Cuthbert had a mostly frustrating afternoon.
However, Emma Hayes remained her usual calm and measured self in the technical area and used her substitutes to attempt change the direction of the game. Eve Perisset, Fran Kirby, Jelena Cankovic and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd were all introduced one by one as Hayes plotted a way to recovery.
Just as it looked like Chelsea were heading home pointless, Serb international Jelena Čanković delivered an inch-perfect ball for Sam Kerr to head home and ensure that the match spoils were shared.
Happy and Honest Hayes
At the post-match press conference coach Emma Hayes, with a grin on her face, was clear: “To come to a big title rival and not be at our best, it’s an amazing point for the team”. Chelsea will know they were outplayed, but that was a massive point gained through a late goal that ruined Arsenal’s Emirates party.
As Hayes left the press conference she was positively buzzing and will feel that, with this result, Chelsea have the psychological edge on Arsenal as we begin the second half of the season.
The Title Race
Conceding that late Sam Kerr goal means Arsenal were denied a clear advantage in the title race. So where are we now? Chelsea lead but have played a game more than the rest of the top four, Arsenal and Manchester United sit three points behind with Manchester City six points off top spot.
Kerr, and Chelsea’s grit and attacking threats, probably make them favourites but this is looking like the most competitive title race ever in the WSL. Chelsea v Arsenal is currently scheduled for the penultimate game of the season at Kingsmeadow on Sunday 21st May and that may well prove decisive.
Hannah Parnell’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from The Emirates: