Despite a trophy-laden few years for the Blues, the Continental League Cup remained out of our grasp – that is, until a dramatic final against Arsenal back in February. Ahead our 2020/21 Continental League Cup group stage match versus Arsenal, four of the key protagonists from that day recall how we overcame the Gunners to lift the trophy, thanks to Bethany England’s last-minute winner.
The first silverware of the 2019/20 campaign was decided at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, as a London derby between the two most successful sides of the WSL era would meet in the final of the Continental League Cup.Emma Hayes – 'This was the one domestic trophy that had eluded us throughout my time here. When we got out there onto the pitch for the warm-up – and it was absolutely freezing, by the way – I saw our supporters and realised this was going to feel just like a home game. You can’t underestimate just how big a boost that is when the stakes are so high.'The Blues took an early lead through top scorer Bethany England and, having already done the league double over the Gunners, it looked like we had a big psychological advantage. But the previous season’s WSL champions are not to be underestimated and they came back strongly, only to find Ann-Katrin Berger in the form of her life.
Berger – 'It’s definitely one of the most interesting games I’ve played in! Everyone was praising what I did on the pitch, but I actually think my defenders were incredible as well. It was a real team effort out there. I never thought that it wasn’t going to be our day. I never had a doubt during the game, even though Arsenal really pushed us back. I just tried to keep us in it.'
Despite the German keeper’s best efforts, Leah Williamson finally ended our dogged resistance with an equaliser late on. It looked as though extra-time beckoned…England – 'Erin Cuthbert came up to me straight after they equalised and said, “Just bring it. I know you’ve got something else in you.” She knew some something was coming. We still believed, even so late – we probably couldn’t have lasted another 30 minutes with the pressure Arsenal were putting on us. It was now or never.'Even in the face of so much pressure, Hayes had kept most of her attacking players on. It was a bold move, but one that was about to pay off big time in the dying seconds of the game.
Hayes – 'We were defending a lot and I’d actually considered taking off both Sam Kerr and Erin late on. That’s football management – you win some and you lose some. The two of them combined brilliantly to lay the ball into the path of Maren, who just seems to always pop up at the right time…'Mjelde – 'I saw the goalkeeper and there was an opening between her legs; I saw the space and it was a pass, but it could also be a shot as well, because it was really close to goal. My first thought was just to get it through her legs and hope for the best. If I’d passed it any other way, there would have been an Arsenal defender to block it, and if I’d gone for the near post the goalie would have got there. And when you have a player like Beth in the box, you know to put it in that area and she’ll be there.'
England – 'Maren, being the hero that she is again, put the ball across for me and that was that.'
The elation was there for all to see. There was no coming back from this one for the Gunners – Chelsea were just seconds away from lifting the Continental League Cup for the first time.Berger – 'It’s actually my first trophy I’ve won in my career. I came second a couple of times before. That’s why I chose the club – I think Chelsea are always ruthless in a final and that’s shown for many years since I’ve been in England.'England – 'To finally bring home that trophy was a big statement for the club to make. To be honest, I thought Arsenal were the better team on the night, but we ended up getting the win. That shows our strength as a group, the resilience we’ve got and the trust in belief we’ve got in each other. They had the momentum after equalising so late, and we had to find a way.'
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