FROM EMIRATES STADIUM – Arsenal dominated against Chelsea to seal a 4-1 victory at in north London, moving level on points with the reigning champions in the WSL table.
In the biggest game of the WSL so far this season, a brace from Alessia Russo on top of goals from Beth Mead and Amanda Ilestedt saw Arsenal thrash a dreary Chelsea, who suffered their first defeat of the 2023/24 WSL campaign.
The Gunners set a new WSL record attendence of 59,042 fans, who saw Mead opened the scoring eight minuntes in. Chelsea’s Johanna Rytting Kaneryd added a reply, levelling the score five minutes later, but two goals in two minutes from Russo and Ilesedt gave Arsenal a healthy lead.
With Chelsea struggling and failing to counter the aggressive hosts, Russo converted from the spot in the second half to seal the emphatic victory that keeps Arsenal still in contention for the WSL title.
How the game unfolded
With the rain tearing down on the Emirates Stadium, it was all out attack from both sides as this game held the power to determine the trajectory of the rest of the WSL season.
The hosts broke the deadlock after a well-worked attack on the break, Lia Walti played through to Caitlin Foord, who tore down towards the final third. Kim Little and Victoria Pelova did well to turn and maintain possession, before Mead executed a spectacular finish to take the lead.
Five minutes later, however, another expert use of the counterattack brought the sides level as Rytting Kaneryd netted an equally well-worked team effort past a flailing Manuela Zinsberger.
Evenly matched, both teams were tussling for possession and control — nervous moments from the host’s defence nearly gifted golden opportunities to the Blues. However, Arsenal went on to capitalise, scoring twice in as many minutes to take the lead before the break.
Ilestedt towered above three Chelsea players and goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger to head home a perfect looping set piece from Mead, while Russo then shrugged off two defenders to slot home an impressive solo strike with aplomb.
Lauren James sent a heavy strike inches wide to start the second half before the hosts were dealt a blow as integral midfielder, and skipper Little was forced off through injury, being replaced by Frida Maanum.
Woes continued for Chelsea as Berger and Carter clattered into an advancing Russo in the box, earning the hosts a penalty, which the Lioness dispatched powerfully, securing Arsenal’s win. James was also lucky to get away with a deliberate stamp on Walti, which referee Rebecca Welch missed.
Substitutes Stina Blackstenius and Cloe Lacasse had shots that could not find the target as Arsenal’s dominance sealed an impressive and well-fought victory over their biggest rival.
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – A far better performance compared to earlier this season but still made nervy mistakes that could have been punished.
RB: Katie McCabe – 8/10 – Used her physicality to hold up the flank and caused problems for Chelsea’s attack.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy – 6/10 – Made key clearances and anticipated movement well.
CB: Amanda Ilestedt – 7/10 – Played to her strengths and looked calm and collected when in possession even when under pressure from Chelsea’s attack. Scored too.
LB: Steph Catley – 7/10 – Should not have let Rytting Kaneryd have that much time to plan her shot. Took a few tumbles but made sure to track back after the first mistake.
CF: Lia Walti – 8/10 – Her awareness of players and spaces was key in creating chances for the Gunners.
CF: Victoria Pelova – 8/10 – Dominant in and out of possession, she controlled the tempo and did well to keep Chelsea’s threats at bay.
CAM: Kim Little – 7/10 – Whilst the execution was lacking, her dominance and experience was crucial in keeping Arsenal’s cool.
RW: Beth Mead – 9/10 – Her impetus consistently lifted Arsenal, returning a goal and an assist.
ST: Alessia Russo – 10/10 – Russo’s best outing in an Arsenal shirt so far, rewarded with two goals in a splendid performance.
LW: Caitlin Foord – 8/10 – Utilised pace and fought to add the gloss until the final whistle.
SUB: Frida Maanum (61′ for Little) – 8/10
SUB: Stina Blackstenius (74′ for Russo) – 8/10
SUB: Noelle Maritz (74′ for Catley) – 7/10
SUB: Cloe Lacasse (74′ for Mead) – 7/10
SUB: Kyra Cooney-Cross (90+2′ for Pelova) – N/A
Subs not used: D’Angelo (GK), Beattie, Codina, Cooney-Cross, Miedema.
Jonas Eidevall – 9/10 – Made all the right calls
GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 4/10 – Was let down by some poor defending but should have done better to prevent the set-piece threat.
RB: Eve Perisset – 5/10 – Struggled to retain posession and was overpowered on the flank.
CB: Jess Carter- 4/10 – Far too slow and passive against an aggressive Arsenal attack.
CB: Maren Mjelde – 6/10 – Did well to hold the line but was too slow to prevent Arsenal’s third goal.
LB: Niamh Charles – 7/10 – Another controlled performance from Charles who did well defensively and to create chances, but was let down by a poor end product.
CM: Sjoeke Nusken – 6/10 – Arsenal’s dominance in midfield often left her stranded but it was a positive display to maintain control.
CM: Jessie Fleming – 6/10 – Failed to make much impact with James on the wing. Was better when James was moved into midfield.
CM: Erin Cuthbert – 6/10 – Did well defensively but was caught out of position regularly.
RW: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – 7/10 – Sprightly and did well to score Chelsea’s first. Her pace was a thorn in Arsenal’s side all afternoon.
ST: Sam Kerr – 5/10 – Whilst there was little being fed to her, Kerr failed to make much impact on the game.
LW: Lauren James – 6/10 – Starting on the wing saw her drift centrally, causing confusion and a lack of outlet of the flank.
SUB: Fran Kirby (46′ for Nusken) – 7/10
SUB: Ashley Lawrence (46′ for Perisset) – 7/10
SUB: Kadeisha Buchanan (46′ for Mjelde) – 6/10
SUB: Guro Reiten (64′ for Rytting Kaneryd) – 6/10
SUB: Mia Fishel (74′ for James) – 5/10
Subs not used: Musovic (GK), Hampton (GK), Ingle, Beever-Jones
Emma Hayes – 4/10- Made the wrong call starting James on the wing and was too slow to correct errors in her side at half-time.