Arsenal Throw Down WSL Title Gauntlet By Thrashing Champions Chelsea

Arsenal Throw Down WSL Title Gauntlet By Thrashing Champions Chelsea

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Arsenal Throw Down WSL Title Gauntlet By Thrashing Champions Chelsea
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In front of an English league record attendance at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal moved level on points at the top of the Women’s Super League by defeating leaders Chelsea.

Two goals in three first half minutes from summer signings Amanda Ilestedt and Alessia Russo helped condemn the previous unbeaten league leaders to their first defeat in all competitions this season.

After failing to win their opening two league games of the season, Arsenal had gone on a six-match winning run which had taken them to within three points of their opponents at the top of the Women’s Super League.

Yet, their recent record against Chelsea was poor, winning just one of their previous nine encounters against the reigning champions, a 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of last season.

After unluckily failing to defeat Chelsea at home in the league in January – a match in which they were punished for not taking their numerous chances – they made amends this time by putting the game beyond their opponents by half-time. In three home matches against them, their head coach Jonas Eidevall remains unbeaten against Chelsea.

The match began at a blistering pace amidst heavy rain in North London. Arsenal attacked at pace down both wings and from such a raid instigated by captain Kim Little, they opened the scoring in the eighth minute.

The fit-again Beth Mead followed up her two goals against West Ham United two weeks ago with another, her 58th in the history of the Women’s Super League, firing into the top of the net after an intelligent lay-off by the irrepressible Victoria Pelova.

Arsenal’s lead lasted less than five minutes as Chelsea hit a ball over the top for Swedish forward Johanna Rytting Kaneryd. She cut inside Steph Catley and caught goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger out by arrowing a shot inside her near post.

Yet Chelsea, with star striker Sam Kerr shackled by Ilestedt, always looked susceptible to the pace of Arsenal’s attacks. Russo added gloss to a perfect afternoon by winning and converting a penalty kick sixteen minutes from the end. It is the first time Emma Hayes’ side, champions for the past four seasons, had conceded four goals in 104 league games since a 0-5 defeat to Arsenal in October 2018.

Speaking to me after the game, Russo who joined Arsenal from Manchester United said afternoons like this demonstrate why she made the decision to join her title rivals. “I think there’s so many more reasons than what people think as well. Moments like today were really special, a great performance, a great occasion and, yeah, a massive three points.”

She was flattered by comparisons between her first goal and many of those typically scored by Arsenal legend and record men’s goalscorer Thierry Henry. She told me “I love practicing finishing and shooting, that’s my favorite part of the session so, yeah, I knew I wanted to put it across the goal and lift it a little bit and it was a great ball through by Lia Wälti that I just kind of had to finish.”

The 4-1 scoreline will be a chastening defeat for Chelsea coach Emma Hayes in her last league visit to her former club. She admitted on Friday her side had not played well on their last two visits to the Emirates Stadium and will be no more pleased with their performance today.

Last month it was announced she would be leaving Chelsea to take charge of the United States national team and visited the country last week to meet up with her new players in Miami.

Ahead of the game, Arsenal had already announced ticket sales of 58,000 for their third of five matches this season at the 60,704-capacity Emirates Stadium. The official attendance of 59,042 set another Women’s Super League record – the third in fifteen months – breaking the previous mark of 54,115 when Arsenal played Liverpool on the opening day of the season.

Speaking about the record attendance, CEO of Arsenal, Vinai Venkatesham said, “the support we’ve seen for our women’s team has been incredible, and is felt by everyone associated with our club.”

“Breaking our own WSL attendance record is another landmark moment. We’re proud of our women’s team, our fantastic supporters, and our passionate people across our club – all of whom have contributed to this moment. The hard work that got us here will continue as we remain focused on nurturing the connection with our supporters.”

“It’s been encouraging to see attendances and broadcast viewing figures grow this season across the WSL. We want to ensure that we drive this level of support consistently, season after season, as we continue to accelerate the sustainable growth of the women’s game.”


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Arsenal Throw Down WSL Title Gauntlet By Thrashing Champions Chelsea

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