Arsenal fought back to beat Chelsea in the Continental League Cup final and deservedly win their first trophy in four years.
Jonas Eidevall’s side trailed within two minutes when Sam Kerr headed Chelsea in front but the Gunners responded and were much the better side at Selhurst Park.
Buoyed by a strong Arsenal following among a record crowd in London, they outplayed and outwitted their long-standing rivals to claim a sixth League Cup.
Striker Stina Blackstenius calmly slotted in the equaliser after Kerr’s opener, before Arsenal captain Kim Little netted from the penalty spot to make it 2-1.
The Gunners continued to dominate, although the combination of Kerr and midfielder Guro Reiten provided an ongoing threat for Chelsea, and Eidevall’s side extended their lead on the stroke of half-time when the ball deflected off Blues defender Niamh Charles and into her own net from a corner.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes made several tactical changes throughout the match but her side could not find a way back into the game as Arsenal saw out the win.
It is a huge result for Arsenal and coach Eidevall, who has won his first trophy with the club and ended a significant period without silverware for a side who had previously dominated English women’s football.
“These are the games we want to play,” Eidevall told BBC One.
“To get results creates belief. It was really important to get that reward and now we can be filled with belief for all the games going forward.”
Chelsea, on the other hand, have now suffered defeat in back-to-back League Cup finals despite winning three successive Women’s Super League titles.
Hayes said: “Everything has to be top class and today it was not at Chelsea standard. Sometimes you have to lose games like this to be reminded.”
Significant win brings back memories of Gunners’ golden era
Having lost 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA Cup last weekend, Arsenal had the worst possible start on Sunday when Kerr’s header snuck in under the crossbar to kick-start a mouth-watering final.
Chelsea have had Arsenal’s number in recent years, going unbeaten in their past five meetings – all of which have come since Eidevall moved to London.
And it was Chelsea’s supremacy in this fixture – and in domestic cup finals – which dominated the pre-match build-up.
Chelsea have taken over from Arsenal as England’s leading club during Hayes’ tenure, but this was a display from the Gunners which brought back memories of their golden era.
Eidevall’s tactics were planned to perfection as his side tore through Chelsea in the first half, using width to great effect and showing a steely side they have missed on too many occasions this season.
Blackstenius, criticised of late for her lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, answered her critics with a composed finish for the crucial equaliser and the outstanding Little also got on the scoresheet.
The third goal sealed the win on the stroke of half-time and Arsenal showed resilience to hold on after the break, reminiscent of their successful teams of old.
“We had to break the chain at some point and today was that day,” Leah Williamson, the Arsenal defender and England captain, said.
“It meant a lot more to us. Arsenal should be winning trophies and that started again today.”
There were jubilant scenes at full-time as Arsenal’s players ran hand-in-hand to their supporters to celebrate as ‘Sweet Caroline’ rang out at Selhurst Park, where the 19,010 in attendance beat the 8,004 record set at last year’s final.
Chelsea, who are not used to losing, threw everything at Arsenal in the final 10 minutes but could not find a breakthrough and will return their attentions to the WSL and FA Cup, hoping to defend both titles.
- 16MaritzSubstituted forWienroitherat 70′minutes
- 2Carvalho Souza
- 15McCabeBooked at 32minsSubstituted forPelovaat 57′minutes
- 25BlacksteniusSubstituted forBeattieat 87′minutes
- 19FoordBooked at 90mins
- 16ErikssonSubstituted forFlemingat 77′minutes
- 21CharlesSubstituted forLeupolzat 45′minutesBooked at 51mins
- 5IngleSubstituted forRytting Kanerydat 63′minutes
- 10JamesBooked at 83mins
- 28CankovicSubstituted forBuchananat 40′minutes
- 19Rytting Kaneryd
- Kirsty Dowle
Match ends, Arsenal Women 3, Chelsea Women 1.
Second Half ends, Arsenal Women 3, Chelsea Women 1.
Attempt saved. Jessie Fleming (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Melanie Leupolz.
Caitlin Foord (Arsenal Women) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Laura Wienroither (Arsenal Women).
Lauren James (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt saved. Ève Périsset (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jessie Fleming.
Attempt blocked. Guro Reiten (Chelsea Women) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Caitlin Foord (Arsenal Women).
Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt missed. Melanie Leupolz (Chelsea Women) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left following a corner.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Leah Williamson.
Attempt blocked. Lauren James (Chelsea Women) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Rafaelle.
Substitution, Arsenal Women. Jen Beattie replaces Stina Blackstenius.
Foul by Kim Little (Arsenal Women).
Jessie Fleming (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Frida Maanum (Arsenal Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Stina Blackstenius.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Manuela Zinsberger (Arsenal Women).