Women's Sport: Drama at the death as England brace gives Chelsea first silverware of the season

Chelsea v Arsenal - FA Women's Continental League Cup Final

It was an all London affair in Nottingham this weekend as Arsenal and Chelsea went head-to-head in the Continental Cup final.

Arsenal tasted defeat in the Conti Cup final for the second year in a row as Chelsea emerge champions in their first-ever league cup final.

Maren Mjelde and Bethany England linked up twice at the start of the game and then again in the dying minutes to hand Chelsea their first silverware of the season. 

Quick out the blocks

An electric start from both sides saw arguably the best chance of the opening five minutes fall to Guro Reiten, played in by England, but last-ditch defending saw her effort blocked.

The opener came a minute after. Jonna Andersson’s looping ball went full-back to full-back as Maren Mjelde was poised at the back post to head the ball into the danger area where England waited to pounce. The Chelsea forward didn’t get her shot off first time, but a swivel set herself up to curl it beyond the Arsenal defence and Manuela Zinsberger in the goal, providing the dream start for Chelsea.

Chelsea v Arsenal - FA Women's Continental League Cup Final

Arsenal almost hit back immediately as they piled the pressure on Chelsea’s defence. Katie McCabe’s whipped ball in was met by Louise Quinn at the back post who looked as though she’d pulled one back but for the heroics of Ann-Katrin Berger in the Chelsea goal clawing the ball out and away.

Another chance went begging minutes later, this time it was Caitlin Foord playing through Jordan Nobbs who saw her effort closed down by Berger, who denied Arsenal once again.

Foord saw herself on the receiving end of a through ball from Vivianne Miedema just before half-time, but her effort could only rattle the side netting.

Drama at the death

Much like the first half, Arsenal enjoyed the majority of the ball and consistently piled pressure on Chelsea’s backline.

Miedema had two great chances to pull back an equaliser, the first a low drive and the second a header, but both edged agonisingly wide.

The Dutch striker had yet another chance fall to her thanks to a ball in from Foord. Bringing the ball down well, she half-volleys towards goal but Berger was there yet again to deny Arsenal an equaliser.

The breakthrough eventually came for Montemurro’s side from the resulting corner. This time Chelsea failed to clear the ball and Leah Williamson was on hand to fire past Berger to keep hope alive for Arsenal.

Chelsea v Arsenal - FA Women's Continental League Cup Final

But the hope was to last only six minutes as Chelsea hurled forward in search of a winner.
In spite of a quiet game, Sam Kerr was pivotal in the winning goal going toe-to-toe with Viki Schnaderbeck before outmuscling her and laying the ball off to Mjelde. The Norwegian took the ball in her stride before skipping past Williamson and poking the ball through Zinsberger’s legs to England at the back post who tapped home.

Heartbreak for Arsenal but ecstasy for Chelsea who, in their first Conti Cup final, add to only domestic trophy missing from their cabinet thanks to sheer resilience and taking of chances.

On any other day, Arsenal would have claimed yet another Conti Cup, but a standout performance from Berger in the Blues’ goal was pivotal in ensuring success for Hayes’ side.

Chelsea v Bristol City - Barclays FA Women's Super League

As a neutral, the final acted as a flurry of entertainment and edge-of-the-seat viewing and in spite of Arsenal's dominant display, it was end-to-end with both sides showing signs of nicking the win late on.

For the Lionesses involved, attention quickly turns to SheBelieves Cup as they fly out to Orlando to begin preparations for their opener against the USA.

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