Chelsea took a deserved point against Arsenal at Meadow Park as the flagship match of Women’s Football Weekend finished Chelsea Women 1-1 Arsenal Women.
A tight match burst into life in the final ten minutes, as Beth Mead gave the Gunners the lead before Pernille Harder equalised for Chelsea, via a big deflection off the otherwise superb Lottie Wubben-Moy. The away side had a huge chance to take 3 points late on, but Sam Kerr could only lob wide. The result keeps Chelsea unbeaten in 3rd in WSL.
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea chose to not shuffle the pack, with Emma Hayes sticking with the same XI which achieved an impressive victory against Everton last weekend. That meant that Berger started in goal with Andersson, Eriksson, Bright and Mjelde at the back, Leupolz, Ingle and Ji in the midfield and a front 3 of Cuthbert, England and birthday girl Pernille Harder.
Chelsea could call on a very powerful bench including Charlotte & Jessie Fleming, Sam Kerr and Guro Reiten.
There was a frenetic start at Meadow Park, as the two teams came out of the blocks battling to take control. With this approach, it made it difficult for either side to create opportunities. The only early moment of note was Kim Little receiving treatment, as Arsenal sat back into a defensive shape, looking to frustrate rather than show attacking impetus.
The first chance came as Leupolz crossed towards Harder, before the loose clearance squirmed to Maren Mjelde. The usually reliable striker of the ball scuffed her effort and Arsenal sprang into life. Kim Little tried slip in the dangerous Viv Miedema, but Berger smothered well.
The game continued to be scrappy, with the referee often finding the whistle in her mouth. Miedema briefly went down for treatment with 30 minutes on the clock, before an honest but mistimed challenge by Leonie Maier on captain Magda Eriksson led to the first booking.
The only real effort of note came on the 43rd minute, and it was a massive moment. Sophie Ingle’s loose pass was immediately snatched on by the Arsenal midfield, who found Caitlin Foord. The Australian winger cut inside and curled a terrific effort towards goal, which was tipped onto the crossbar by Berger, before amazingly clipping the crossbar again and bouncing back into play. It was cleared by Eriksson, before another poor kick from the keeper gave Miedema another chance which again was blocked by Chelsea’s captain.
Frustration for the Blues at the break as the rain poured down at Meadow Park.
Half Time: Arsenal Women 0-0 Chelsea Women
Chelsea needed to get more attacking impetus in the match and they acted at half-time. The surprisingly poor Leupolz substituted for Australian star Sam Kerr, who once again found herself starting on the bench.
Moments after kick-off, Chelsea should probably have punished Arsenal. Leah Williamson dallied on the ball, Harder snuck in and her pass found Beth England. The centre-forward was in good form last week, but she fired over the crossbar this time.
Moments later, Chelsea created their best chance. Millie Bright’s excellent pass found England who drove to the byline and crossed towards Pernille Harder. Her clever flick-on found Cuthbert who looked destined to open the scoring but Katie McCabe scrambled to make the block.
Arsenal had a few half-chances, mainly due to Berger’s poor footwork, but Chelsea then missed their biggest chance. A poor kick from Zinsberger led to the Blues pressing well and Cuthbert found England barely ten yards out. She sliced her effort horribly wide.
That was England’s last action of note as she was replaced by Guro Reiten. The game continued to be bitty. Ji was booked for fouling Mead, before Kerr’s poor touch led to McCabe making a superb challenge just inside the box.
Another huge chance came and went for the away side. Ji’s cross was on the money and although Arsenal were able to scramble the ball away initially, it came to Pernille Harder. The Dane, celebrating her 28th birthday had the goal at her mercy, but Lottie Wubben-Moy was able to make a good block.
As the game ticked away, Arsenal had a half-chance as McCabe’s cross nearly found Foord. The loose ball bounced away to Miedema who fired a long way wide. Bizarrely the referee gave the corner to Arsenal – not the only beneficial decision for the home side.
As the game ticked into the final five, the deadlock was broken. Dutch superstar Miedema tested Millie Bright’s pace after the latter had gone down injured minutes before and burned past the England international. Her cross was perfectly delivered to the onrushing Beth Mead who had a simple finish. Arsenal Women 1-0 Chelsea Women. Joe Montemurro’s game-plan to frustrate and hit on the break looked to have worked.
Emma Hayes responded immediately as Chelsea swapped Ji and Cuthbert, with Niamh Charles and Jessie Fleming. The burst of quality of the bench gave the Blues a boost, but they equalised in rather fortunate fashion.
Pernille Harder burst away down the right wing and reached the byline, looking to try and find Kerr with a cross. The unlucky Lottie Wubben-Moy matched her stride for stride, but as she deflected the Dane’s cross, it spun up and above Zinsberger and nestled in the far corner. Arsenal Women 1-1 Chelsea Women.
Amazingly, Chelsea had a chance to snatch the three points. Charles played a stunning curling pass in behind the Arsenal defence, which Sam Kerr latched onto. As Zinsberger came flying off the line, the Aussie impudently floated an effort up and over her… dropping just past the far post. It was the last action of a slow burning but ultimately frantic London Derby.
FULL TIME: ARSENAL WOMEN 1-1 CHELSEA WOMEN
Chelsea Player Ratings
Arsenal Women 1-1 Chelsea Women: Final Words
A point gained or two points dropped? Hopefully come April, we’ll see this as the former. It’s hard to say as you’d have expected Kerr to bury the late effort, but before that Chelsea were lucky to equalise. Arsenal were dogged, compact and frustrated Chelsea. The home side also benefitted from a lenient referee who seemed determined to give them everything. A run of easier matches now on the horizon for Emma Hayes’s side and if they win the game in-hand, they will be top of the WSL.
Written and edited by Rob Pratley