Arsenal win Conti Cup in 3-1 triumph against Chelsea

As 19,010 football fans shuffled from the station to Selhurst Park, there was an overarching feeling that anything could happen in the Continental League Cup final between Chelsea and Arsenal.

Chelsea had kicked Arsenal out of the FA Cup just 7 days before, and now it was time for the Gunners to prove themselves by their own historically-high standards.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 3-1, ending their four-year trophy drought since their WSL title win in 2018-19. 

It took the Blues 98 seconds to put Arsenal behind as unstoppable striker Sam Kerr headed Chelsea in front after a cross from Guro Reiten. 

This early goal seemed to light a fire in Arsenal as they immediately went in search for an equaliser and earned 3 corners in quick succession. 

It was clear that Arsenal were hungry for the win and the underdogs equalised in the 16th minute with a 12-yard goal from an unmarked Stina Blackstenius. 

Chelsea struggled to match Arsenal’s tempo as the Gunners reclaimed the first half. A jostle between Katie McCabe and Sophie Ingle awarded Arsenal with a penalty which captain Kim Little swept effortlessly into the bottom left corner. 

Both teams seemed anxious for the half time whistle but the Gunners pressed on for a third goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time, with Niamh Charles heading the ball into the back of her own net under pressure following a Steph Catley corner.

Arsenal fans continued their clamorous support into the second half as the Chelsea side teased the narrative like a villain who doesn’t die until the end credits.

Eidevall’s side had failed to beat Chelsea in five attempts, suffering three defeats and two draws prior to the final after struggling to readjust without Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema due to ACL injuries.

Arsenal’s determined performance compared to a complacent Chelsea displayed how Emma Hayes’ side perhaps went into this final match too cock-sure following their winning streak this season. 

Kim Little was named player of the match after a shining performance in guiding her fired-up team to a deserved win. 

The captain beckoned star defender Leah Williamson out from the team to lift the trophy with her. It seems the skipper knows who she’ll be passing her captain’s armband to when the time comes. 

This league cup is Arsenal’s first piece of silverware since 2019 and was needed for the Gunners to prove that they aren’t spiraling toward mediocrity this season. 

Disappointed Chelsea manager Emma Hayes admitted that Arsenal had “wanted it more” than her team. 

She told Arsenal Football Club: “Congratulations to Arsenal, they were by far the better team. We looked like a team that had won a lot and they hadn’t. 

“I saw the fire in the Arsenal side. I didn’t see that from us.”

This marks the first piece of silverware for Jonas Eidevall, who has been at the helm of Arsenal since September 2021. 

He said: “I’m very proud of them. It was really a test of character conceding a goal that early on. It really provided a difficult situation but what a way to respond.”

For midfielder Lia Walti, the unwavering support from the Gooners spurred the team towards the win. 

“I could hear the fans all game long – honestly, from minute one to the last minute, I could hear them all the time.

“When we had the trophy and did the rounds with the fans, it was just incredible to celebrate with them because they are a big part of the club as well.”

It was clear that Arsenal wanted the win more than their rivals on Sunday, and this new piece of silverware in their locker has the potential to springboard the Gunners back to their previous unbeaten success. 

Match details

Arsenal (4-3-3): Zinsberger 7; Maritz 6 (Wienroither 6, 70), Williamson 7, Rafaelle 7, Catley 7; Maanum 7, Little 9, Walti 6; McCabe 7 (Pelova 6, 57), Blackstenius 7 (Beattie 6, 87), Foord 7

Subs: Wubben-Moy, Hurtig, Marckese (gk), Kuhl

Yellow cards: McCabe, Foord

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Berger 6; Perisset 6, Bright 6, Eriksson 6 (Fleming 6, 77), Charles 5 (Leupolz 7, 45); Ingle 6 (Rytting Kaneryd 6, 63), Cuthbert 6; James 6, Cankovic 5 (Buchanan 6, 40), Reiten 7; Kerr 6

Subs: Musovic (gk), Carter, Mjelde, Abdullina

Yellow cards: Leupolz, James

Referee: Kirsty Dowle (Kent)

Attendance: 19,010

Featured image credit: ArsenalWFC

Featured image credit: Katie Chan via Wikiemdia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

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