Arsenal’s hopes of retaining the WSL title have taken a potentially fatal blow, after Chelsea’s dominant 4-1 win. In a match reminiscent of Arsenal’s 5-0 win at Kingsmeadow last season, Chelsea’s utterly devastating first half gave Arsenal a deficit they couldn’t recover from. The tone was set in the opening seconds, as Arsenal lost possession from their own kick-off. Indeed, Chelsea were stronger, quicker and dominant, with Arsenal simply not at it.
After some half-chances, Chelsea took the lead. From the right of the penalty area, Beth England beat Louise Quinn, and then curled a left footed shot into the opposite corner. It was soon two: a deep cross was left by Zinsberger, and England headed over from close-range. A similar move led to Chelsea’s second: on the left, Guro Reiten was given too much time to cross, Zinsberger didn’t come, and Quinn too easily allowed Sam Kerr to head in her first WSL goal. The rout was complete 7 minutes later: after a soft-free kick, Sophie Ingle hit a superb volley past a despairing Zinsberger.
Arsenal never got going in the first half, unable to make a numerical advantage in midfield count. While things slightly improved in the second half, especially after Lisa Evans and Beth Mead came on, it was Chelsea who got the fourth: Guro Reiten nodded home another cross.
Arsenal pulled one back, with Mead’s header squirming past Berger in Chelsea’s goal, but it was too little, too late. Arsenal will now have to contend with the fact that the title race is out of their hands. But with FA Cup action next weekend, and then two matches against Manchester City, at home in the Continental Cup, and away in the league, there is still plenty to play for, and as Arsenal learned last season, it is possible to win the league despite losing to your direct title rivals. It’ll mean Chelsea slipping up, though, and on current form, that doesn’t look very likely.