Ladies report: Chelsea 2 Arsenal 2
news Wed 17 May 2017
Stoppage-time goals for either side resulted in a dramatic draw in a thrilling London derby, but we remain unbeaten in the Spring Series.
Having dominated the majority of the first half, we found ourselves behind at the half-time break after Jodie Taylor turned home the rebound of her own penalty, which had been well saved by Carly Telford after the keeper had been culpable in conceding the spot-kick.
The Blues didn't allow heads to drop in the second half, though, and our persistence was eventually rewarded when a free-kick into the box by Maren Mjelde was headed home by Millie Bright from close range. It was just reward for an excellent attacking display by the home side, which looked to be enough to earn a point, but in stoppage time it almost turned into all three.
Drew Spence, who has been in wonderful goalscoring form this term, was played in by Crystal Dunn and showed great composure to slot home what looked to be the winner to send Wheatsheaf Park wild. However, there was further drama to come as Jordan Nobbs' speculative flick earned Arsenal a point with the last kick of the game.
Emma Hayes made two changes to the team which won 4-0 at Reading a fortnight ago, with Ji So-Yun and Dunn replacing Spence and Eniola Aluko in the starting line-up, and her players were right at it from the very first whistle.
A frenetic period of play in the opening 10 minutes saw Dunn and Ramona Bachmann both come close to scoring the game's first goal; the former in particular will be disappointed not to have found the back of the net as she was in on goal, although Van Veendaal was quickly off her line to make a fine save.
Half-chances were arriving thick and fast for the Blues, but a reminder of Arsenal's threat on the counter came when a lightning-quick break presented Taylor with what looked to be a certain goal until Telford spectacularly denied her.
However, the keeper was involved in a collision with Danielle Carter on the edge of the box which resulted in the referee awarding a penalty. Although Telford made up for her error with a fine save to deny Taylor, the striker was on hand to turn in the rebound from close range to give Arsenal the lead.
Wing-backs Hannah Blundell and Bethany England attempted to strike back immediately for the Blues with powerful efforts from outside the box, but the visitors took a narrow lead into the half-time interval.
During the break our development squad were presented with the trophy for winning their league last weekend, a fine achievement by the players and head coach TJ O'Leary, along with all of his backroom staff.
The second half began with a substitution, Spence replacing Karen Carney, and with Chelsea looking the brighter side in attack once again, and it was only a poor touch by Blundell which prevented her from going through on goal after Ji had brilliantly picked her out with a cross-field pass.
The Blues' next attack should have resulted in the equaliser as Dunn brilliantly held off a challenge to run into the box and play the ball across to Spence, who in turn fed Bachmann for a gilt-edged opportunity on her left foot. Her shot looked bound for the bottom corner, but the slightest of deflections took it just wide of the target.
Dunn's exceptional poise and balance came to the fore once again moments later as she twice managed to stay on her feet while being impeded by Janssen, before sending the ball across goal for the onrushing Katie Chapman, who was agonisingly close to applying the finishing touch from within the six-yard box.
Both sides made further changes as Arsenal brought on Beth Mead and Fara Williams, while the Blues opted to introduce further width into our game in the form of the tricky Gemma Davison, and the equaliser arrived just a few minutes later.
For all the neat interplay by the home side's attacking players, sometimes all it takes is a straightforward set-piece to make all the difference. Mjelde played a deep free-kick into a dangerous area and there was Bright to direct a header past Van Veendaal from inside the six-yard box. Wheatsheaf Park erupted; parity was restored, and deservedly so.
However, the Gunners immediately threatened an equaliser with a hopeful punt from Nobbs which looked to be sailing over, only for the ball to suddenly dip at the last second and cannon back off the crossbar. It was a heart in mouth moment for Telford, but fortunately it didn't cost us.
Chelsea should have taken all three points when Mjelde headed a Davison corner across goal and into the path of Bright, but this time our goalscorer couldn't find the target.
There was no such trouble for Spence, however, as she looked to have given us a deserved victory when she fired home a composed effort in stoppage time, but there was to be last-gasp heartache for the Blues as Nobbs hopefully stuck out her leg to deflect home a speculative strike with the last kick of the game, leaving Telford stranded in the middle of the goal.
It was harsh on the Blues, but we're back in action again on Sunday when we travel up to Sunderland. Kick-off is at 2pm.
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Telford; Cooper, Mjelde, Bright; Blundell (Flaherty 78), Chapman (c), Carney (Spence h/t), England; Ji (Davison 65), Bachmann; Dunn
Unused subs: Kitching, Fahey, Cuthbert, Aluko
Scorers: Bright 68, Spence 90+1
Arsenal: Van Veendaal, Scott, Wuben-Moy, Patten, Janssen, Williamson, Nobbs, Van De Donk (Williams 61), Carter, Taylor (Mead 59), O'Reilly
Unused subs: Morrhouse, Kelly, McCabe, Humphrey, Quinn
Scorer: Taylor 34, Nobbs 90+6