All out attack
The first chance came the way of the Gunners, a team with an unparalleled success in the competition, the 14-time champions keen to assert themselves from the off. A nippy run from Beth Mead saw the former Lady Black Cat dummy Millie Bright before attempting to pull the ball back into the spot, the Chelsea defence calm enough to clear. Another chance for Arsenal followed soon after, this time the Gunners attacking up the right thought Jordan Nobbs, the midfielder poking the ball past Magda Eriksson before chasing it down the long way around. Again the ball in the box, aimed towards Vivianne Miedema near the spot was cleared by Maren Mjelde.
The first corner of the game came for the Blues, a mazy run from Fran Kirby raising the nerves in the Arsenal box as the ball was put behind, the corner unremarkable. However, with the ball in the attacking half, Chelsea applied some pressure, a snapshot from Ramona Bachmann wide and curling way from Sari van Veenendaal’s far post.
Where the Gunners attacked in numbers, the front three relying on each other to help them though the defence, the Blues utilised Kirby, the diminutive attacker, happy to weave around the defence on her own.
A missed ball saw Mead pounce on the loose object, the attacker with nothing but space to run into, a quick sprint from Mjelde and well-timed lunge enough to dispossess the Arsenal woman before she could make more ground. Hedvig Lindahl’s goal under threat again moments later as Louise Quinn sent Nobbs’ free kick over the bar. Back the ball went to the other end of the pitch, red and blue flooded the Arsenal box, a quick shot from Kirby blocked before van Veenendaal claimed a Jonna Andersson cross.
The ball was fast moved to the other end of the pitch, Arsenal’s attack linking to push Chelsea back, the first ball cleared before Kim Little’s curler was deflected wide. The corner saw panic in the box as two Chelsea players went to ground, the ball recovered and angled at goal by Miedema and again deflected for a corner. The set pieces brought about an immediate reset, Chelsea hanging on as the Gunners shuffled their delivery, the threat of the first goal looming,
A pull back by Emma Mitchell on Bachmann gave Chelsea a chance to reset and test their strengths at a set piece, Eriksson’s back post delivery just too high for Bright at the far stick. Clattered as she played the ball in Kirby’s path, Drew Spence stayed down as her teammate skipped forward once again, her whipped effort grasped by van Veenendaal. From going it alone to overcomplicating things, Kirby was involved in the next good Chelsea attack, her one-two and back again with Hannah Blundell too ambitious for the narrow room their had to work with in the box.
The tempo of the game slowed up after the half hour, the ball stuck in midfield, both defences regimented enough not to allow their opposition cleanly through. The first booking just before half time enough to bring another good chance, Ji So-yun’s direct free kick fired straight into the wall for the South Korean to recycle, van Veenendaal there to make the save. Ji was involved again moments later as she found herself in a good position on the right side of the box, her effort slipping just over the bar as it rose away from danger.
Bachmann at the double
Wasting no time for the restart, the Blues found the opener as Kirby found Bachmann running through the box, her rising shot beyond the reach of van Veenendaal as it stroked into the top corner. Looking for an immediate reply, Arsenal swept forward, Lindahl called into action for the first time in the match to parry a low effort from Mead, the attacker unable to reach the rebound in time.
Nowhere near as bright as they had been in the first half, Arsenal began to sag, with it all to do they soon found themselves hit for a second when Bachmann’s deflected effort found the far corner. Defending staunchly and attacking with menace, there looked to be no stopping Chelsea.
Again, the game found itself locked in midfield, Arsenal trying to push up and cause problems but Chelsea standing firm to deny them any kind of route through. One of the brightest on the pitch, Mead found her way through the Chelsea defence once more, her dogged determination enough to bring about a gain of hope for the Gunners. Her low ball sent into the box found Miedema, the Dutch poacher perfectly placed to pull her boot back and strike the ball under Lindahl.
Another change of personnel saw the game go stone cold as Arsenal looked for momentum, a Chelsea surge forward enough to reopen the lead, Kirby’s whipped effort stoked home.
With time ticking away neither side was interested in slowing down, Arsenal frantic for a second as the Blues looked to extend their lead. Another raft of substitutions zapped momentum once again, Chelsea looking every bit the champions as Arsenal still lacked that killer ball, time not on their side. A late chance for substitute Eni Aluko saw van Veenendaal make an easy enough save, stoppage time ticking down as the Gunners wheezed in attack, Chelsea still looking fresh.