In the Continental League Cup final, Arsenal rallied to defeat Chelsea and earn their first trophy in four years.
Sam Kerr’s goal for Chelsea gave Jonas Eidevall’s team the lead after just two minutes, but the Arsenal rallied and outperformed Chelsea at Selhurst Park.
They outplayed and outsmarted their longtime opponents to win a sixth League Cup, helped by a sizable Arsenal fan base amid a record crowd in London.
After Kerr’s first goal, striker Stina Blackstenius quietly scored the equalizer, and Arsenal captain Kim Little then made it 2-1 with a penalty kick.
The Gunners maintained their lead despite Chelsea’s constant threat through midfielder Guro Reiten and defender Kerr, and Eidevall’s team increased their advantage just before halftime when Blues defender Niamh Charles headed into her own net from a corner.
Throughout the game, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes tried a number of tactical adjustments, but her team was unable to recover as Arsenal held on to the victory.
It is a momentous victory for Arsenal and coach Eidevall, who has brought an end to a prolonged trophy drought for a team that had previously dominated English women’s soccer.
We want to play these games, Eidevall said on BBC One.
“Seeing outcomes inspires confidence. It was very crucial to receive that prize, and now we can feel confident moving into the upcoming games.”
Chelsea, however, has now lost back-to-back League Cup finals despite winning three straight Women’s Super League championships.
Says Hayes “Everything must be of the highest caliber, but today it wasn’t up to Chelsea standards. These kinds of defeats are sometimes necessary to serve as a reminder.”
From railroad worker to League Cup final referee
A big victory brings back memories of the Gunners’ glory days.
Arsenal had the worst possible start on Sunday as Kerr’s header crept in under the crossbar to start a tantalizing final after losing 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup previous weekend.
Throughout the past few seasons, Chelsea has had Arsenal’s number, going undefeated in their last five meetings—all of which have taken place after Eidevall arrived to London.
Moreover, Chelsea’s dominance in this matchup and domestic cup finals dominated the lead-up to the game.
During Hayes’ time, Chelsea has supplanted Arsenal as the premier team in England, but this was a performance by the Gunners that brought back memories of their heyday.
While his team ripped through Chelsea in the first half, exploiting width to great effect and displaying a steely side they had too often neglected this season, Eidevall’s tactics were meticulously planned.
Blackstenius, who has recently come under fire for her lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, responded by scoring an important equalizer with a cool finish, and the exceptional Little also added a goal.
On the cusp of halftime, the third goal sealed the victory, and Arsenal displayed tenacity to cling on after the break, evoking memories of their former winning squads.
Leah Williamson, the Arsenal defender and captain of England, stated, “We had to break the chain at some time, and today was that day.
“We were much more moved by it. Arsenal need to be taking home awards, and that process began once more tonight.”
After full-time, there were joyful scenes as Arsenal’s players ran hand-in-hand to their fans to celebrate as “Sweet Caroline” played at Selhurst Park, where 19,010 people attended, breaking the previous record of 8,004 set at last year’s final.
Chelsea, who are not used to losing, gave Arsenal their all in the closing 10 minutes but were unable to make a breakthrough. Chelsea will now switch their attention to the WSL and FA Cup in the hopes of retaining both of those championships.