Ladies report: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
news Thu 21 Apr 2016
Two goals from Fran Kirby helped the Blues move to the top of the FA Women's Super League table with a dominant victory over Arsenal.
The England forward was a constant thorn in the Gunners' side and her opportunistic effort in the first half put us in command of a crucial game in our bid to retain the WSL1 title. Although the Gunners threatened in the second half, Chelsea always looked the more likely side to score and Kirby duly put the finishing touch on a fine team performance by smashing home from close range late in the contest.
Despite 120 gruelling minutes against Manchester City in the FA Women's Cup semi-final on Sunday, Emma Hayes largely kept faith with the same side which started the game at Wheatsheaf Park. The goalkeeper and back four remained unchanged, which meant Hedvig Lindahl's goal was protected by a back four of Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Gilly Flaherty and Claire Rafferty.
In midfield, Drew Spence replaced former Gunners midfielder Jade Bailey to partner captain Katie Chapman, while the attacking-midfield line-up of Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun and Karen Carney was the same trio which took to the field against City. Kirby did, however, come in for Eniola Aluko in attack.
Chelsea's high pressing game caused problems for Arsenal from the first whistle and after eight minutes it almost paid dividends when Spence won back possession high up the pitch and her cross found Carney, who couldn't make clean contact with the ball under pressure from former Blues defender Casey Stoney.
The Gunners threatened soon after through Danielle Van De Donk, who sent a free header just wide of the post, and they were made to pay in the 18th minute when Kirby opened the scoring with her third of the season. A long ball was prodded over Van Veenendaal by the England international and despite Rose looking favourite to clear the danger, Kirby's determination saw her hold off the defender and tap in to an empty net.
The rest of the first half saw Chelsea continue to threaten with our slick passing and incessant work all over the pitch and there was a shout for a penalty when Carney and Scott tangled in the box, but the referee waved played on.
Kirby fizzed another shot at goal after quick thinking from Carney with a throw-in sent her away down the right, and on the opposite side there was an even better chance for Davison. The former Arsenal winger, who had switched flanks, put Alex Scott on her backside with two stepovers and a lightning turn of pace, only to blaze her shot over the bar.
A wonderful passing move from the Blues, featuring slick one-touch play and great movement, freed up a yard of space for Spence on the edge of the box. Her low shot crept just past the near post, but it was another good opportunity to end what had been a positive first half from Hayes' side.
Chelsea's first-half dominance was summed up by the Gunners making a double change at the break, but it did little to quell our attacking excellence and twice we went close to extending our advantage in the early second-half exchanges. First Spence was brilliantly denied by the feet of Van Veenendaal and then the keeper used her hands to force out Davison's fierce effort.
The home side's first real chance came just before the hour mark as Lindahl saved Williams' fierce free-kick and couldn't gather the ball under pressure from Oshoala, but she reacted well to keep out the former Liverpool forward at the second attempt.
With Arsenal enjoying more joy in the attacking third, Hayes introduced Ana Borges in place of Ji. The Portuguese winger almost had an immediate impact, but her through-ball for Kirby was slightly overhit and Arsenal were able to recover possession.
Borges was involved again soon after, dispossessing Williamson and racing down the right before squaring for Carney. Usually so composed in the penalty area, her shot on this occasion was wide of the target.
The Blues went close when a free-kick found its way to Chapman in the box via the head of Flaherty and her hooked half-volley was tipped over the bar, but the second goal our performance deserved finally arrived. Another set-piece saw Spence's goal-bound effort cleared off the line and the ball fell kindly to Kirby, who smashed home from inside the six-yard box.
A two-goal margin of victory was the least our performance deserved, moving us to the top of the WSL standings and striking a psychological blow ahead of the Women's FA Cup final on Saturday 14 May.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Van Veenendaal; Scott (c), Rose (Pablos Sanchon 75), Stoney, Williamson; Losada (Oshoala h/t), Williams, Nobbs; Corredera (Smith h/t), Carter, Van De Donk
Unused subs: Byrne, McCabe, Janssen, Henning
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl; Blundell, Bright, Flaherty, C Rafferty; Chapman (c), Spence; Davison (Aluko 81), Ji (Borges 64), Carney (Bailey 75); Kirby
Unused subs: Spencer, L Rafferty, Russo, England
Goals: Kirby 18, 80