Chelsea boss Emma Hayes made six changes to the side that beat West Ham in the week for this huge clash, with Lauren James, Guro Reiten, Eve Perriset, Maren Mjelde and Erin Cuthbert all returning to the starting XI along with Ann Katrin Berger returning between the sticks.
Arsenal made just one change to their side from the midweek win at Everton, with Katherine Kuhl replacing the injured Lia Walti who was stretchered off in the week.
At a packed Kingsmeadow, Arsenal got the game underway making the early running and fizzing a ball into the middle which Ann Katrin Berger was able to catch well. Lauren James drove at Arsenal’s back line early on before the ball fell to Erin Cuthbert who flashed her effort just wide of Manuela Zinsberger’s left hand post.
The tricky Guro Reiten then fed through Pernille Harder, who was making her final Kingsmeadow appearance but the fourth official raised her flag before she could get her effort away. Jen Beattie then produced an excellent sliding challenge to thwart Reiten as she ventured forward again. Arsenal gradually grew into the game in the first seven minutes as Stina Blackstenius carried the ball forward before it found its way across to Katie McCabe but some excellent Chelsea defending stopped the attack going any further.
Sam Kerr thought she had given Chelsea a ninth minute lead, but the fourth official once again raised her flag after the Australian slotted home from an offside position. Katie McCabe stole possession away from Chelsea and darted forward before playing in Blackstenius but the forward’s effort was superbly stopped by Katrin Berger in the Chelsea goal.
The hosts did made the breakthrough in the 22nd minute as a loose ball found its way back out to Eve Perriset who swung the ball in and Guro Reiten steamed in at the back post to slam the ball across goal and into the bottom corner to give the hosts the lead they thoroughly deserved
The Gunners regrouped and the ball found Frida Maanum on the edge of the area, who arrowed a shot goalwards and it looked for all the world like it would nestle in the top corner, but Katrin Berger somehow palmed the ball away not once but twice with the rebounds to keep the hosts ahead. Chelsea then responded with a chance of their own which saw Kerr burst down the left channel and curled a right-footed shot goalwards, but Zinsberger was equal to it in the Arsenal goal. Maanum then tried her luck from a free kick moments later following a foul by Lauren James but she was once again thwarted by Berger as Arsenal ramped the pressure up on the Chelsea goal.
Lauren James, who was looking threatening as ever when Chelsea ventured forward then did superbly well down the left wing and hung up a cross into the middle, but nobody in a Blue shirt was there to take advantage.
Five minutes before half time, it was going to happen today wasn’t it? The ball was swung in from a Reiten free kick, nodded back across goal and Magda Eriksson was on hand to poke the ball home with her first of the season, on her final Kigsmeadow appearance to put The Blues two up. In her final programme notes, Eriksson said “A London Derby at Kingsmeadow to end it, we wouldn’t have it any other way”, it seems like she got her fairytale ending after all!
In the first half added time, Katie McCabe caught Eve Perrisett with a late challenge and entered the referee’s notebook in what proved to be the last action of a pulsating half.
Half Time – Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal.
At half time, Arsenal brought Steph Catley on in place of Katherine Kuhl with Arsenal moving to a five-at-the-back formation.
Chelsea had the first chance of the half and some intricate play b between Sam Kerr and Reiten found Pernille Harder who twisted and turned in the box, before seeing her effort kept out by the leg of Zinsberger.
On the hour mark, you feel the chance Arsenal had been calling for had finally came. Sophie Ingle was penalised for a handball inside the area which gifted The Gunners a chance to claw themselves back into the game, Katie McCabe stepped up but blasted her penalty wide of the target to the delight of almost everybody, bar the travelling Arsenal contingent inside Kingsmeadow. Berger was called into action again shortly afterwards, as she pulled out a strong save to deny a fizzing shot from Maanum.
Emma Hayes then opted to freshen up the pack bringing on Jess Carter in place of Lauren James. Pernille Harder then departed, unfortunately not on the scoresheet in her final Kingsmeadow appearance as Jessie Fleming replaced her. Stina Blackstenius, who ploughed a lone furrow up front for Arsenal was then withdrawn by Jonas Eidevall in place of Jodie Taylor.
As the game ticked into the final quarter, it was looking more and more likely Chelsea weren’t going to squander the lead, doing well to snuffle out any Arsenal attacks despite the Gunners huffing and puffing. Lotte Wubben Boy then had her goalkeeper to thank as she undercut a back pass, but the Arsenal shot-stopper was alive to clear any danger before Reiten could pounce on the error.
Magda Eriksson did well to cut out a ball across the box from substitute Lina Hurtig before another sub, Steph Catley was next to try her luck, but once again found the inspired Katrin Berger in the way once again. Guro Reiten then attempted to round the scoring off by striking a dipping volley goalwards after the ball had been cleared by the number eleve’s effort was comfortably over the Arsenal goal.
Reiten then had the final chance of the game in injury time for Chelsea, clipping the ball over the advancing Zinsberger into the box, but nobody in Chelsea blue was there to tap the ball home for 3-0. The final whistle was ten blown by Abi Byrne to confirm a brilliant 2-0 win for Chelsea and secure, depending on Manchester United’s result in the derby, a third WSL title in a row for Emma Hayes’ side.
Full Time – Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal
Chelsea: Reiten 22’, Eriksson 41’.