Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea
by Nathan Edwards (6/3/23)
Arsenal scored three goals all in the first half to overcome Sam Kerr’s early header, to run out deserved winners of their first trophy in four years in front of a record crowd for a Conti Cup Final at Selhurst Park yesterday.
Kerr excellently controlled a long ball to start the move, and after Guro Reiten crossed the ball in, the Australian was there to finish the move off, to give Chelsea an early lead.
Chelsea would quickly lose the lead, through Stina Blackstenius and Kim Little rounded off her impressive performance with a penalty to swing the final in Arsenal’s favour.
The Gunners went on to extend their lead deep into first-half stoppage time with Niamh Charles turning the ball into her own net, capping a disappointing cup-final performance for the Blues.
Arsenal and their players shone at Selhurst Park to beat their city rivals and left Chelsea with some questions to ask heading into the crucial stages of the season, so who won and lost during yesterday’s encounter?
Stina Blackstenius: With Beth Mead and Vivienne Miedema both sustaining ACL injuries, it opened up a space upfront for Blackstenius to fill. The Swede has had an indifferent time as the main striker, and was rumoured to be leaving in the winter.
But in one of the biggest games in her Arsenal career, she rose to the occasion. Blackstenius reacted the quickest to apply the finishing touch to a loose ball and got the equaliser that Arsenal’s dominance deserved.
With Arsenal chasing Chelsea and both Manchester clubs, Jonas Eidevall will be hoping that the Swedish striker will show similar sharpness she displayed in the final.
The fans: A cup final with four goals is a treat for any fans, and away from the goals the football on show was enjoyable, which was received well between the fans who created a vibrant atmosphere at Selhurst Park.
The noise created by the two pairs of fans was record-breaking with over 19,010 fans filling the seats making it the most attended final in Women’s league cup final history.
It shows the growth in women’s football, and how impactful England’s Euros victory in the summer was for crowds in English football. Hopefully, this will only be the starting point for the growth and the governing bodies don’t hinder the interest right now by picking smaller venues compared to the demand for tickets.
Sam Kerr: It wasn’t the as much of the performance that puts the Australian in this category, it was the fact that Kerr put in a solid performance that didn’t warrant a silver medal come the end of the match.
The striker should all her strengths for the opening goal of the final, showing great control to pluck the ball out of the air and laid off a ball to the right-hand side. Chelsea later recycled the ball the Reiten who sent in an enticing ball that Kerr finished off.
She could have added a second to the action-packed first half, in an identical situation. The Western Australian won’t let this loss dent her form for the rest of the season, and Emma Hayes will be hoping to see a similar bullish performance from her number 20.
Lauren James: Throughout the season James has shown how much potential she has as a future England and Chelsea superstar, but things just didn’t go her way on Sunday afternoon, where she was unable to get into the game at all.
Chelsea had a difficult first half with Arsenal camping the west London club in their own half, meaning the former Manchester United star struggled to impose herself, with her limited touches getting shut down immediately.
With Arsenal keeping her quiet, Chelsea’s attacking threat was weakened and allowed Arsenal to run out as easy winners yesterday.
Teams: ARSENAL (4-3-3): Zinsberger, Maritz, Williamson, Carvalho Souza, Catley, Maanum, Little, Wälti, McCabe, Blackstenius, Foord. Substitutes: Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Hurtig, Marckese, Pelova, Kühl, Weinroither.
Scorers: Blackstenius 16′, Little (pen) 24′, Charles (OG) 45+5′.
CHELSEA (4-2-3-1): Berger, Périsset, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Ingle, Cuthbert, James, Cankovic, Reiten, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Carter, Leupolz, Fleming, Mjelde, Rytting Kaneryd, Buchanan, Abdullina.
Scorers: Kerr 2′.
Referee: Kirsty Dowle.