LADIES REPORT: ARSENAL 3 CHELSEA 0
A disappointing afternoon saw Chelsea Ladies eliminated from the WSL Continental Cup after a 3-0 defeat to Arsenal Ladies at Borehamwood FC's Meadow Park.
After defeat to Birmingham City in their previous fixture, Chelsea manager Matt Beard made three changes to the starting line-up. Katie Sherwood returned from a one-match suspension while Helen Bleazard and Laura Coombs were back in the side with Drew Spence, Ashlee Hincks and Kate Longhurst dropping to the bench.
Chelsea began brightly as Danni Buet fired a fierce free kick from 25 yards only to be held well by Emma Byrne.
Instead, the Cup holders took the lead on 14 minutes in spectacular style. Jordan Nobbs stroked a superb effort passed Carly Telford from 20 yards and found the top corner.
After again falling behind early in a match, Dunia Susi looked to lead the Chelsea fight back but could not get her long-range effort on target under pressure from several Arsenal defenders.
As the first half drew to a close, some heroic defending from Gemma Bonner prevented the hosts from doubling their advantage. With Danielle Carter looking certain to tap in from close range, a superb goal-line block from Bonner saw the Blues' deficit kept to a single goal going into the interval.
After the restart, the Blues almost found themselves on level terms four minutes into the second half. Excellent pressure saw Helen Lander dispossess Gilly Flaherty, before seeing her low strike roll agonisingly passed the far post.
Despite the Blues' bright start to the half, the hosts would double their lead on 58 minutes. After Drew Spence was adjudged to have handled in the penalty box, Kim Little converted from the spot to put the Gunners 2-0 in front.
After conceding for a second time, the visitors again looked to react instantly. A quick counter-attacking move created a chance for Lander, whose effort was well held by Byrne. Substitute Kate Longhurst also tried her luck, her looping volley dipping just over the crossbar.
With the Blues struggling to reduce the hosts' lead, Jennifer Beattie's header secured the win for Arsenal 10 minutes from time, which despite the protests of the Chelsea players, was adjudged to have just crossed the line as the holders secured their place in the knockout stages of the Continental Cup.
After the match, Blues boss Beard was disappointed in his side's performance, but insists they will now look to push on when the league campaign resumes.
'It's the most disappointed I've been all season,' said Beard. 'We set our target to be in the top half of the table this year, and I think we're on course to do that. We've got a couple of weeks break now to take stock and move on.'
The Blues campaign continues with a return to league action away to Liverpool on Sunday 1 July.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (C); Lara Fay (Sophie Gwilliam 73), Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle, Claire Rafferty; Helen Bleazard , Katie Sherwood (Kate Longhurst 68), Danni Buet, Dunia Susi; Laura Coombs (Drew Spence 35), Helen Lander.
Unused subs Sarah Quantrill, Victoria Williams, Sophie Perry, Ashlee Hincks.
By Daniel Clarke