The WSL is a three-team race between Arsenal (last year’s champions), Manchester City and Chelsea. Last season the Blues finished in third, five points behind Manchester City and twelve behind the champions. Neither team lost more than two matches, but the difference was Chelsea’s six draws.
Having already drawn a match this season, a surprising 1-1 away at Brighton a month ago, taking all three points from the champions, who were a perfect 3-0-0 heading into Kingsmeadow, would put the Blues back in the title race. And take all three points they did.
Today’s FAWSL results and what they mean for the table:— She’s On The Ball (@ShesOnTheBall1) October 13, 2019
Arsenal their unbeaten start come to an end as Chelsea fight back from 1-0 down, Liverpool secure their first points of the season and Man Utd, Reading and West Ham all continue their chase for fourth with wins. pic.twitter.com/BOyMmMEtDG
Things started off worryingly after nine minutes when Daniëlle van de Donk received a reverse pass and slotted the ball into the side netting at the far post. Chelsea had been pinning the Gunners back, but a slick bit of passing made getting points an even steeper climb.
Arsenal’s high pressing made it hard for Chelsea to build attacks and funnel the ball to their dangerous collection of forward players. When the Blues did manage to break through, they all flowed at pace toward the Arsenal box. Guro Reiten had a long distance strike hit the bar and both posts saw shots spin by them. The Blues looked dangerous, but couldn’t find the final connection to get the goal they needed before the half.
The second half began in much the same way, until the 57th minute. Erin Cuthbert slid to clip the ball with her toe into the path of Fran Kirby, who dribbled wide before sending a straight ball to Bethany England at the top of the six-yard box. England’s control popped the ball in the air, which she then volleyed into the back of the net.
Arsenal grew back into the game after the goal and looked threatening for a spell but the Blues defended well and ushered their players and/or the ball into wide areas, over the touchline, or out for goal kicks. There were a few scares, but Arsenal only had three shots on target all match, two of which they had prior to halftime.
The Blues continued to push but Arsenal’s defense was packed in and repelling every slight mistouch or ricocheted shot.
Fran Kirby, Ji So-Yun and Guro Reiten were subbed off and replaced by Drew Spence, Ramona Bachmann and Maria Thorisdóttir. The plan may have been to secure the point — after all, it’s October, it is a long season, and there will be more chances to make up some ground.
The latter pair had other ideas.
Sophie Ingle picked up a loose ball in midfield in plenty of space. Bachmann raced in front of her and collected a pass while dribbling into the box. Arsenal’s defense collapsed, as they had done all match. She smartly turned and spotted Thorisdóttir at the top of the box. The pass was met with a first-time strike, which curled around Manuela Zinsberger’s fingertips and into the net for a 2-1 lead with 85 minutes played.
The Blues survived a late scare in stoppage time when the ball pinged around the box after a huge Ann-Katrin Berger save. Thankfully it rolled away from goal and Chelsea players shielded it for the keeper to come collect.
The final whistle blew and the Blues had painted London blue and got themselves right back in the title race by giving the reigning champions their first defeat of the season.