Arsenal Women had already played three competitive matches ahead of the opening weekend’s Women’s Super League clash with Chelsea at the Emirates… and boy did it show! Last season the Blues lost just one league game in the entire campaign. This time, they stumbled at the first hurdle – succumbing to a 3-2 defeat in
Arsenal Women had already played three competitive matches ahead of the opening weekend’s Women’s Super League clash with Chelsea at the Emirates… and boy did it show!
Last season the Blues lost just one league game in the entire campaign. This time, they stumbled at the first hurdle – succumbing to a 3-2 defeat in a thriller on the big stage; the Emirates stadium, with nearly 9,000 watching.
Emma Hayes’ masterplan, as she attempts to net a third title on the trot, isn’t in tatters yet, but it certainly wasn’t the intention to lose the WSL opener.
Newly appointed Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall has now won four out of four, and – unsurprisingly – describes his job so far as “a childhood dream”.
Chelsea looked rusty and short of a yard at times, and the scoreline was almost inevitable, despite Hayes making key changes to try to inject extra pace in a second half which the Blues largely bossed.
It just wasn’t enough, however, and after taking the lead in the 14th minute on Sunday lunchtime through Vivianne Miedema, the Gunners never looked like losing… even if the tension was palpable as Chelsea launched wave after wave of attacks as the final whistle loomed.
Miedema’s goal was dazzling. Blocked in the box by Jess Carter, the Flying Dutchwoman changed feet, nutmegged the defender and fired the ball into the net at the near post, wrong-footing Ann-Katrin Berger.
Chelsea levelled just before the interval (main picture, above), with Erin Cuthbert slotting the ball past Manuela Zinsberger after Millie Bright’s effort on goal had been blocked.
Guro Reiten hit the bar in the opening salvoes of the second half, but a breakaway goal by Beth Mead – Arsenal’s player of the match – in the 49th minute made it 2-1 to the Gunners. She evaded Blues captain Magda Eriksson, and scored a beauty.
Hayes made second-half changes, bringing on Sophie Ingle for Mel Leupolz in midfield, and replacing Niamh Charles and Beth England with the Special K partnership of Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr.
But moments later it was Arsenal who extended their lead to 3-1 as Mead twisted and turned to beat Berger and then Bright, firing the ball into an unguarded net.
Chelsea piled on the pressure, and a Pernille Harder header beat Zinsberger, grazing the underside of the bar as it went in for 3-2 in the 65th minute. But no matter how hard Chelsea huffed and puffed after that, Arsenal clung on (sometimes desperately) to secure a huge win and get Eidevall off to a flyer.
The Blues have plenty to work on this week as they build up to the first home match of the new season at Kingsmeadow against Everton on Sunday lunchtime, September 12.
Jonna Andersson – largely overlooked at the tail end of last season – looked sharp when she came on as a sub, and Beth England, Reiten and Ji So-Yun had solid games.
But the lack of match readiness told in the end.
Good Life pictures: JANE GROVE