Arsenal Women have won their first trophy in 4 years, beating Chelsea 3-1 in the Continental League Cup final. Chelsea took the lead through Sam Kerr after two minutes, but Arsenal responded in style, scoring three goals in the first half, and holding Chelsea at bay in the second half. Indeed, Arsenal should’ve scored more—a stonewall penalty was not given in the second half after Buchanan fell Caitlin Foord in the penalty box, and with no VAR, there was no possibility of review. Here are three points from the match.
STINA on the scoresheet!— Barclays Women's Super League (@BarclaysWSL) March 5, 2023
GAME ON HERE #ContiCup @ArsenalWFC @SBlackstenius pic.twitter.com/8st1konAhC
Arsenal make breakthrough
Arsenal played well against Chelsea last week but couldn’t make the breakthrough as Chelsea won with relative ease. It’s been a theme of Arsenal’s meetings with Chelsea: in the league, Arsenal haven’t lost to Chelsea since the end of the 2020-2021 season, but had lost three times in Cup games. When Sam Kerr scored (again) from a cross (again), it was looking like it would be four losses. Arsenal, though, responded. Blackstenius took her first chance well, and while there was some fortune with the ball deflecting to her level with the penalty spot, it was the quality of chance Arsenal hadn’t had. Arsenal attacked with more intensity, and with better supporting runs, and were able to make the breakthrough, both in terms of scoring goals, and getting one over Chelsea in a final. It is a big moment for Jonas Eidevall, who will hope that the Conti Cup serves Arsenal going forward, much like winning the Conti Cup in 2018 spurred Arsenal on to win the league the following season. At the very least, it gives Eidevall proof of concept: that he can get Arsenal to get over the line in the biggest of games.
Cool as you like from Captain Kim Little MBE #ContiCup @ArsenalWFC pic.twitter.com/3WEHq64W2F— Barclays Women's Super League (@BarclaysWSL) March 5, 2023
Arsenal control Chelsea
Despite Chelsea’s fast start, Arsenal were in control. And while at times that’s suited Chelsea, it didn’t today, as evidenced by Emma Hayes switching from a back four to a back three and then hauling off Jelena Çankovic for Kedisha Buchanan before the forty minute mark. Hayes would make another half-time change, but for all of her changes, Chelsea couldn’t wrestle control back from Arsenal. In the first half, Arsenal were more intense than Chelsea, and their possession play and pressing was better: when the Gunners would lose the ball, they’d win it back, especially in midfield. In the second half, Arsenal played more on the counter attack, but their shape was better than Chelsea’s, and Chelsea were only able to create chances from distance.
Foord and Little shine
One reason for Arsenal’s dominance was the performance of Kim Little and Caitlin Foord. While many in Arsenal red performed exceptionally well, Little and Foord were the two best players on the pitch. Little was instrumental in midfield (alongside Lia Wälti), especially in keeping the ball under pressure and in tight spaces. When Chelsea broke, she was the extra player getting back and winning the ball back.
Foord, meanwhile, was excellent at holding the ball under pressure. Countless times, she wriggled away from two Chelsea defenders to then play the ball further on to one of her attacking partners or a midfield runner. And Chelsea couldn’t handle her running on the ball: Perisset was moved to midfield, Niamh Charles was hauled off, and Buchanan should’ve been booked for dragging Foord back in the first half before her challenge in the box in the second half, which should’ve been a penalty. In Foord’s second start for Arsenal, she was excellent on the losing side in the 2020 Conti Cup final. Today, she righted that wrong, and helped Arsenal win silverware.
Arsenal: Zinsberger; Maritz (Wienroither 70’), Williamson, Rafaelle, Catley; Little, Wälti; McCabe (Pelova 57’), Maanum, Foord; Blackstenius (Beattie 87’)
Substitutes not used: Marckese (GK), Wubben-Moy, Hurtig, Kühl
Goals: Blackstenius 16’, Little 24’ (p), Charles 45+4’ (OG)