Erin Cuthbert, pictured, looked shellshocked as she led Chelsea off the field to the changing rooms at half-time, with Arsenal Women comfortably in control of the League Cup final at Selhurst Park. The Gunners did to Chelsea what the Blues usually do to the teams they play week in, week out… dominate, possess and outplay.
Erin Cuthbert, pictured, looked shellshocked as she led Chelsea off the field to the changing rooms at half-time, with Arsenal Women comfortably in control of the League Cup final at Selhurst Park.
The Gunners did to Chelsea what the Blues usually do to the teams they play week in, week out… dominate, possess and outplay.
That 3-1 mid-match scoreline remained intact to the very end, and Arsenal deservedly lifted the trophy that Chelsea had hoped to regain.
Yet it all started so brightly. The Blues utterly bossed the first minute and a half, with Guro Reiten lofting the perfect cross into the box for Sam Kerr to power a header home off the underside of the crossbar.
But from then until the final whistle, it was all Arsenal. The Gunners harried and hassled Chelsea, never letting the players settle, denying them space to create and darting forward with real menace at every opportunity.
With a quarter of an hour gone at a packed Crystal Palace ground (the final tally was just over 19,000), Stina Blackstenius slotted home after a quickly taken free kick left the Blues’ defence struggling to get back into position.
On 23 minutes, Sophie Ingle’s rash tackle on Katie McCabe in the area gave Arsenal a penalty, which Kim Little despatched, sending Ann-Katrin Berger diving in the opposite direction.
And just before the break Niamh Charles scored an own goal from an Arsenal corner (the Reds’ fourth of the half), inadvertently heading in while trying to head clear.
By then, Emma Hayes had responded to the threat by taking off Jelena Cankovic and putting on Kadeisha Buchanan, reverting to three in defence to try to beef up the midfield and carve out more scoring opportunities.
But this was just a bad – a very bad – day at the office for a Chelsea Women team that are so used to winning it comes as quite a shock to realise they’re human after all.
Despondent fans leaving at the end, for the weary trudge to Selhurst station, had to comfort themselves with miniature footballs handed out by sponsors Continental Tyres, and the knowledge that there are still three trophies to tilt for this season.
The hunt for league glory resumes with two quickfire matches at Kingsmeadow – Brighton being the visitors on Wednesday night, and Manchester United on Sunday.
It’s the second League Cup final defeat on the trot for the Blues after Man City also won 3-1, at Wimbledon’s ground, after Kerr had opened the scoring for Chelsea.
What will concern Hayes is that all the chopping and changing she attempted in the second half, to rejuvenate a flat-looking team, came to nothing, and those miserable half-time expressions were still on her players’ faces when ref Kirsty Dowle sounded the final blast on her whistle.
Mysteriously, this was exactly the same starting XI that the Chelsea manager had fielded to knock Arsenal out of the FA Cup the previous weekend.
“Everything has to be top class, and today it was not at Chelsea’s standard,” admitted Hayes at the end. “Sometimes you have to lose games like this to be reminded.”