Dominant Chelsea open up title race
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