Match Report: Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea

Photo: Jon D Baker
A thrilling first half turnaround for Arsenal was the difference in the final, with goals from Stina Blackstenius, Kim Little and a Niamh Charles own goal all after Sam Kerr, the tournament’s top scorer this season had struck inside two minutes. Alas, that magic start wasn’t fruitful for the Blues, as the Gunners ralied to turn the game on its head and win the first silverware of the season and their first trophy since 2018 for the North London Outfit.
The teams face off for the second time in seven days in today’s show piece final for the first silverware of the season, with Chelsea unchanged from the 2-0 win over Arsenal in the FA Cup last weekend, and Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall making one change, Laura Weinrotiher dropping to the bench in place of Noelle Maritz.
Chelsea got the game underway in South London kicking towards the Homesldale Road End at Selhurst Park infront of a record FA Women’s Continental League Cup Final crowd of 19,010 and inside two minutes, Chelsea had their dream start. They worked the ball down the left nicely, Guro Reiten whipped a delicious first time ball into the middle and Sam Kerr, who scored against Arsenal last weekend, planted her header past Manuela Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal to give the Blues a dream start with her seventh goal in the Continental Cup this season.
The same duo almost combined again on eight minutes as Kerr once again shoed her Ariel prowess, rising highest between Leah Williamson and Rafaelle Souza to get her head to the ball, but this one was more straightforward for Zinsberger who held well.
Arsenal started to get some joy down the Chelsea right, with a ball in towards Stina Blackstenius cleared away by a mixture of Millie Bright and Chelsea keeper, Ann-Katrin Berger. Bright had to be alert again just moments later as Caitlin Foord broke away down the left but the Chelsea centre half did really well to get a foot to the ball to stop it going across to the waiting Blackstenius.
Arsenal kept on pressing and hauled themselves level on quarter of an hour after a swift break downfield saw Frida Maanum stride towards the Chelsea area, her effort was blocked but it the ball fell to Blackstenius who found herself in the right place at the right time to roll the ball past Berger in the Chelsea goal to level it up at 1-1.
Arsenal then strode forward again, having grown into the game since going behind and were handed a guilt edged chance to go ahead, when Sophie Ingle brought down Katie McCabe in the area with referee Kirsty Dowie pointing to the spot, no complaints from the Chelsea players and Kim Little stepped up to send Berger the wrong way and complete the turnaround for Arsenal in this lightening start to proceedings at Selhurst Park. The Gunners very nearly had a third immediately afterwards, once again striding forcefully at a shaky Chelsea defence, but Blackstenius’ effort was well kept out by Berger at her near post. Arsenal thought they had a lighting quick third goal, when Blackstenius stole in behind following a Steph Catley ball bu the Assistant Referee raised her flag and cut Arsenal celebrations short, much to the relief of everyone in Chelsea Blue in the stadium.
Chelsea were always going to be a threat however and it was that same duo once again, Reiten and Kerr, with the letters header dropping well wide of Zinsberger’s left hand post. Emma Hayes then saw the need for a tactical switch on the 39th minute, bringing off Jelena Cankovic and bringing on Kadeisha Buchanan, switching to a three at the back, with Buchanan out on the right Bright in the middle and Eriksson as left centre back.
Right on half time, Arsenal did get their third, with a brilliant in swinging corner from Caitlin, guided into the net by Rafaelle Souza, via the deflection off Chelsea’s Niamh Charles, to give Arsaenal a stunning 3-1 lead going into half time.
Arsenal got the second half underway with their lead to protect, and Emma Hayes of Chelsea once again made a role of the dice at half time, with Melanie Leupolz coming on in place of Niamh Charles. Caitlin Foord was first to try her luck in the second half for Arsenal, with her effort arrowing wide of Berger’s right hand post. Chelsea almost got the perfect response, when Erin Cuthbert ghosted in on the edge of the box, but her effort went just wide of the post. The substitute, Leupolzs’ first major involvement was picking herself up a booking, fouling Katie McCabe who had been everywhere in midfield for Arsenal.
Rafelle Souza was once again the one to match Sam Kerr, getting her foot to the ball ahead of the Australian forward, which forced a corner for Chelsea that ultimately came to nothing for the Blues. Kerr then found Lauren James on the counter, who finally got a bit of space, but sent her curling effort whilsting over Berger’s post. Katie McCabe who had controlled the midfield for Arsenal today, was then brought off by Jonas Eidevall, with Victoria Pelova replacing her, who was thrust straight into the action with virtually her first two touches bringing down and striking a stinging volley from the edge of the area, which was well held by Berger in the Chelsea goal.
Sophie Ingle was then brought off just after the hour, with Hayes bringing on Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd in her place Caitlin Foord got herself in a foot race with Kadeisha Buchanan, with the centre half appearing to foul her as she entered the box, but referee Kirsty Dowie only gave a courtier, much to the dismay and appeals of the Arsenal players and fans. Eidevall then moved to the bench for his second change of the game, bringing on Laura Weinrother in place of Noelle Maritz. Zinsberger then got down well to push away Melanie Leupolzs’ fierce right footed effort as The Gunners preserved their two goal lead. Hayes had one last roll of the dice, bringing on Canadian, Jessie Fleming for Magdalena Eriksson. The scorer of Arsena;’s equaliser, Stima Blackstenius was then brought off to a standing ovation from the Arsenal fans inside Selhurst, as she was replaced by Jen Beattie as Arsenal looked to sew the game up.
Chelsea managed to muster up another chance before added time, but Leupolz who had been heavily involved since coming on sliced her left footed volley well over the bar just before five minutes of added time were announced at the end of the second half. Kerr then tried to catch Ziszberger out at her near post before Eve Perisset stung the palms of the Arsenal stopper, the Blues’ efforts were to no avail however and the referee’s full time whistle brought an end to a thrilling game, which saw Arsenal pick up their first trophy since 2018, and their sixth Conti-Cup.
Selhurst Park 19,010 attendance.
Photo: Jon D Barker
Chelsea – Kerr 2’
Arsenal – Blackstenius 16, Little (P) 24’, Charles (OG) 45+5’
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