A match that looked to be a nail-biter in the first half turned into a convincing win for the home side at Kingsmeadow. Goals from proven goal-scorers and a strong defence proved to be too much for an Arsenal side that has yet to win a match in 2021.
Even after a half
A very entertaining first half saw Chelsea come flying out of the gates. Earning a corner in the first ten seconds of the match, Maren Mjelde's terrific entrance gave the Blues an early chance, but the Arsenal defence was able to clear.
Chelsea maintained control for the next few minutes, earning another corner, but were unable to convert. At 10 minutes in, a patient Arsenal side started to take over. Playing a strong possession attack, the Gunners came out of their end with steady, calm play from Lotte Wubben-Moy and Katie McCabe.
McCabe's experience and leadership are having a tremendous positive affect on the youngster. Chelsea pressed the Arsenal right side heavily; the Arsenal duo had a few errors because of that press. Fortunately for the Arsenal, the duo handled it, for the most part, rather effectively.
Both sides had a glorious chance to score the opener. Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema made a terrific run and placed an excellent shot low; Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger's massive kick save kept the ball out. Less than ten minutes later, Fran Kirby ran a perfect give-and-go with Melanie Leupoltz, and only a massive effort from keeper Lydia Williams kept the sheet clean.
After the shaky start, Arsenal dominated possession for the rest of the half. Slow build-ups from the defensive third combined with a few excellent over the top deliveries from Leah Williamson showed a calm and professional Arsenal side.
Second half fireworks
The second half started out with a bang. Arsenal's Noelle Maritz, seeing her first action after injury, led a spirited attack that ended in the hands of Berger. Chelsea answered right back. After the Gunners were unable to fully clear, Pernille Harder collected the ball just above the box and was able to put a perfect shot in the corner past Williams. With that goal, Chelsea showed the confidence that has led them to the top of the table and poured on the offence.
Ten minutes later, Harder was at it again. This time, a smooth and patient attack from the Blues saw the striker free at the top of the box. Another cool, perfectly placed shot, and the home side had a 2-0 lead. Chelsea also displayed some defensive prowess in the second half. The Gunners started to press heavily following Harder's second, and had possession deep in the Chelsea end. However, the Blues' defence crowded the box well and kept Arsenal from getting a quality shot. Millie Bright's aerial presence cleared away several chances from the visitors; she was key to stopping the Arsenal attack.
In the 90th minute, Kirby sealed the deal for the Blues. Getting a great through ball, she was able to get in alone on Williams, and the Chelsea striker made no mistake. Coolly sliding the ball into the far corner, Kirby ended any hope for an Arsenal comeback.
For Chelsea, this was exactly what the side needed. This match was the perfect bounce back from their defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion last week. The Blues played a sound and complete football game, and showed that they are mentally strong. Emma Hayes has her side firing on all cylinders right now, the squad is healthy, and they are playing their best football right now. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the Champion's League. The Blues next face Bristol City at Twerton Park on Sunday; Bristol currently sits in the relegation slot with but one win on the season.
The Gunners are headed in exactly the opposite direction. With this loss, Arsenal has not recorded a victory over a fellow 'Top 4' side in over a year. Joe Montemurro's side has not been playing terrible football, but they are also not playing the type of football they are capable of. Strong teams like Chelsea see this and take advantage of it. That is why the Blues are at the top of the table, and Arsenal most certainly will finish the season in fourth - perhaps even fifth, if Everton return to the form they showed at the beginning of the season. One bright spot for the Gunners was the return to the pitch of Moritz and star striker Jordan Nobbs. Nobbs came on for Moritz in the 75th minute; it was good for her to get some minutes in the bank. The Gunners next face a struggling Aston Villa side on Sunday at Bescot Stadium.