Dom­i­nant Chelsea open up ti­tle race

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Total Football - At Meadow Park

Chelsea were never go­ing to be as oblig­ing to­wards their Lon­don ri­vals as on the Oc­to­ber af­ter­noon last year when they demon­strated the soft­est of cen­tres, and Arse­nal, with lu­di­crous ease, plun­dered five goals with­out re­ply. That de­feat has proved a water­shed mo­ment for the reign­ing Women’s Su­per League cham­pi­ons.

Chelsea have won their past 10 games in all com­pe­ti­tions, with an ag­gre­gate score of 38-0. In an­other sea­son, it would be the form of cham­pi­ons, but they have been jostling with Manch­ester City and Birm­ing­ham amid the log­jam of teams Arse­nal have watched with rel­a­tive com­fort from their rearview mir­ror.

Now, though, Chelsea are just two points be­hind and in in­flict­ing Arse­nal’s first home de­feat of the sea­son, were nearly per­fect. The vis­i­tors were firmly in con­trol for great stretches, with the opener – Erin Cuth­bert ris­ing high­est to nod home a Han­nah Blun­dell cross – the be­gin­ning of a tor­ture Arse­nal did not re­sist for an hour.

“I think ev­ery­one that’s been watch­ing us can see that we’re a team that’s in the as­cen­dancy,” said Chelsea man­ager Emma Hayes. “We didn’t take the first po­si­tion in the league un­til April last year. We can’t con­trol it – but if we’re pick­ing up points, any­thing can hap­pen.”

In­jury-stricken Danielle van de Donk was ruled out for Arse­nal be­fore kick-off with a thigh prob­lem and Beth Mead lasted un­til the break be­fore she was sub­sti­tuted com­plain­ing of pain to her knee after land­ing awk­wardly.

Vi­vianne Miedema ploughed a lone fur­row up front as her side, pre­vi­ously so pointed, were re­duced to prod­ding Chelsea with a par­tic­u­larly blunt stick.

Chelsea’s pas­sion could have spilled over when Katie Mccabe clipped cap­tain Karen Car­ney’s heels to halt a Chelsea break. An in­censed Car­ney jabbed Mccabe in the face with her shoul­der, the only blight on Car­ney’s oth­er­wise ex­cel­lent first-half per­for­mance.

Chelsea’s dom­i­nance per­sisted. Cuth­bert added hers and her side’s sec­ond with a crisp vol­ley to con­vert So­phie In­gle’s clipped de­liv­ery. Arse­nal looked out for the count un­til Kim Lit­tle’s cross found Miedema to whip her right foot be­hind her and guide the ball over the line with a deft first-time fin­ish. In a tense fi­nale, Mag­dalena Eriks­son’s hooked clear­ance from a Miedema ef­fort pre­served Chelsea’s lead. Arse­nal

Break­through: Chelsea cel­e­brate the first of Erin Cuth­bert’s two goals

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