Chelsea completed their gruelling fortnight of fixtures with a hard fought 1-1 draw away from home in a London derby against now-fourth placed Arsenal. The result means that Chelsea have now drawn their last three WSL 1 fixtures but remain in top spot for the time being. The match marked Chelsea’s fifth game in fifteen days which has seen the team progress in Europe and reach the FA Cup semi finals. The Blues can be proud of the effort that has been put in over this period of games.
Chelsea came into the match having played and won in midweek in the Champions League, Emma Hayes showed a lot of respect to Arsenal by only minimally changing her starting line-up. Only one change was made from the team that beat Montpellier; Jonna Andersson replacing captain Katie Chapman.
The London derby spirit was on full display as the game got off to a frantic start with both teams testing each other’s goalkeepers. Firstly, Drew Spence had a speculative effort from 30 yards that had to be dealt with by Arsenal keeper Sari Van Veenendaal. Moments later, Beth Mead found herself free on the right hand side of the box, she twisted and turned and managed to get a goal bound shot away; Lindahl could only stick a leg out to divert the ball away. After this initial flurry, the game slowed down as both teams felt each other out.
It took an awful goal kick from Arsenal’s goalkeeper for the deadlock to be broken. Van Veenendaal’s kick went straight to Ramona Bachmann who was alert enough to quickly chip the ball into Fran Kirby’s path. Kirby controlled the ball well before slipping it underneath Van Veenendaal to grab her 20th goal of the season.
Arsenal responded well to going a goal down and worked hard in trying to break the Chelsea defence down. Beth Mead was Arsenal’s biggest threat as time and time again she got free on the right. On one instance, Mead was being double teamed but pulled out a majestic turn to confuse both Chelsea defenders before having an effort at goal that was blocked. Mead was not to be denied the next time however, as on the stroke of half time she ran down the right side of the pitch again, outpacing her marker before finishing confidently in the bottom corner meaning the teams went in level at half time.
The second half saw Beth Mead continue to create problems for Chelsea, this time from the left. She cut inside and curled an effort that went marginally wide. Chelsea then had an effort themselves as Fran Kirby laid the ball back to Ji on the edge of the box, uncharacteristically, Ji snatched at the effort and smashed the ball over the bar. Both teams traded attacks without making anything clear cut. The final opportunity of the game came in the 92nd minute as substitute Erin Cuthbert managed to turn her marker before firing an effort at goal that was well saved by Van Veenendaal.
Although Chelsea dropped points again this weekend, they managed to extend their lead at the top to three points as City surprisingly lost away at Reading.
Player of the Match: Beth Mead (Arsenal) – Was a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side. Using her pace to great effect to hurt Chelsea down the right. She took her goal well and deserved to score on at least two other occasions