Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Not even in her wildest flights of fancy would Emma Hayes have imagined that Chelsea, by 21 minutes, would have such a grip on the reigning champions that 21-year-old Erin Cuthbert was able to Cruyff turn her way out of trouble as the last player in her own area. Hayes' reaction to her side’s third goal - pacing the dugout, stunned into zombified silence, purring: “Wow! Wow! Wow!” - would suggest that even in her more emboldened moments she could not have visualised schooling Arsenal with quite as much swagger as this.
The goal that inspired that reaction was one of those rare, once-in-a-generation strikes that will be reeled out on the WSL promotional packages for years to come, and Sophie Ingle, its scorer, will probably never hit a ball better in her career. A muddle of a headed Arsenal clearance - and it gives you an idea of Ingle’s athleticism that she was not even visible in the TV shot when the ball from that clearance first zipped into the air - bounced once before the onrushing Ingle met it with a touch like a dream. Arsenal heads could only swivel to watch it nestle in the top corner via a perfect arc that Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger, caught flat-footed, was powerless to thwart.
That was Chelsea’s third, Bethany England and Sam Kerr respectively having scored the earlier two. Arsenal, for context, have never conceded first in the Women’s Super League this season and won eleven of their league games with an aggregate score of 35-5. Only Chelsea, coming from behind to win 2-1 in October, had ever taken any points off Arsenal and the jewel in Arsenal’s crown, Ballon D’or nominee Vivienne Midema, had scored 23 in all competitions by December 1st.
For large spells of this game, Miedema cut an isolated figure, barely touching the ball. Her first run at goal, whirring into the one-on-ones from which she is often so dangerous, came on 66 minutes, only for her to uncharacteristically splat the finish wide.
Montemurro’s second-half changes - swapping the below-par Louise Quinn and Jordan Nobbs for more assured hands in Lisa Evans and Beth Mead - allowed Arsenal a brief spell of pressure, but no sooner had Danielle van de Donk miscued her lines in the opposition box had Chelsea snatched their fourth, Guro Reiten heading home with ease. It is unlikely that Miedema will ever face a tougher game this season than the one Ingle and Magdalena Eriksson gave her today. This was Arsenal’s poorest league performance for years; at least their late pressure, as the game wore on, offered them some redemption. Their only goal was lucky, Ann-Katrin Berger, the Chelsea goalkeeper, deflecting Beth Mead’s far-post header into her own goal.
They may argue that there are mitigating factors - namely, the injuries that have left them with 17 fit players, unable to field a full bench. Chelsea boast considerably greater depth but to attribute Arsenal’s collapse solely to their swelling treatment room does Hayes an enormous disservice. It is rare to see Arsenal, usually in control in midfield, outthought, outpaced; undone and outdone. Chelsea’s win today has blown the title race wide open.
The bottom line is that Chelsea were far superior here. By the time Arsenal had mustered a period of meaningful pressure, they were three goals down. The first arrived after ten minutes, Bethany England cutting inside and curling a left-footed shot from distance into the far corner. The second came three minutes later, Chelsea as punctual as a tube line. Reiten’s deep cross dropped perfectly for the athletic and impressive Kerr - who had materialised from nowhere as if dropping from a wormhole - to nod in her first WSL goal. The ease with which Chelsea intercepted possession - Arsenal losing the ball almost willingly, unable to find a path through Chelsea’s holding midfield pair - was at the foundation of a result that leaves Arsenal, top going into this game, second, level on points but a goal behind leaders Manchester City.
Arsenal (4-1-3-2): Zinsberger; Schnaderbeck, Williamson, Quinn (Evans 58), McCabe; Walti; Little, Nobbs (Mead 58), Roord; Miedema, van de Donk
Subs not used: Peyraud-Magnin (g), Maier, Grant, Filis
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Cuthbert, Ingle; Kerr (Spence 85), Ji, Reiten (Blundell 81); England Carter, Cooper, Bachmann, Napier, Telford (g)
Referee: Abigail Byrne
Great effort from Chelsea today, and throughout the year!
Arsenal were just not good enough today...
FULL TIME! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Chelsea have the ball by the corner flag as they look to run down the clock.
And that is that. What a showing from Chelsea!
90+2 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
The Chelsea fans are becoming loud again as the result becomes inevitable.
They cannot have hoped for much more from their side.
90 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
There will be four minutes of added time.
The ball is pulled back to Mead but her shot goes straight at the keeper.
89 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Arsenal win a corner but Chelsea clear. Cuthbert drives up the pitch and is tripped. Professional foul for which Walti is booked.
Ji attempts a long rage shot but it never troubles the goal.
Ingle is named player of the match! Fair enough, even for that brilliant goal alone.
86 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Kerr, who opened her account in the WSL, is off for Spence. Good showing today.
McCabe bursts down the left wing but her cross ends up on the roof of the net. Chelsea are now just slowing the game down as they look to see out a win without any late drama.
83 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Blundell is for Reiten for Chelsea.
Arsenal attack again, the ball is laid-off to Roord but one of her teammates gets in the way, stopping her from pulling the trigger. This is much better from the home side.
Van de Donk released Mead, who has been excellent since coming on, but her cross just has too much on it.
Here is Chelsea's fourth goal of the afternoon
80 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
The header from the corner trickles out for a goal kick and Arsenal send the ball long.
79 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Chelsea are being put under pressure here. McCabe is working hard and wins a free kick. A poor ball comes in and Chelsea eventually clear.
England breaks, playing in Kerr who crosses to Ji at the back post. Corner to Chelsea.
77 min: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
Arsenal come again. Is a remarkable comeback on? They win a corner.
Mead's corner is claimed well by Berger.
GOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! MEAD Arsenal 1 Chelsea 4
A header trickles towards goal from the back post and Berger spills it into her own net. Mead is a little lucky there but a goal is a goal! Super sub!
73 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 4
Chelsea have another chance but they were just offside. Arsenal are in danger of getting embarrassed here.
71 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 4
Well this is game is well and truly over now. Chelsea want their title back and who would bet against them after their showing today.
Sam Kerr has bedded in nicely today which is a big plus alongside Ji, Cuthbert and England going forward.
GOOOOOOAAAAAAL! REITEN Arsenal 0 Chelsea 4
And Chelsea break down the left, crossing into the middle and it is headed into the net by Reiten! Lovely header.
67 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Little then breaks into the box but her cross is claimed by Berger. Arsenal are now on top!
66 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Mjelde is then booked - the game is hotting up here!
Miedema then bursts into the box, she could square it, but instead goes for goal chipping it wide. She has to do better there! That was THE CHANCE!
62 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Van de Donk crosses in but the ball is headed clear.
Cuthbert is now down as the two players run into each other going in for the ball. They are both thankfully up and the game resumes after a brief pause.
60 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Evans makes an immediate impact, driving down the right hand side of the pitch before being tackled.
Ji then crosses into Kerr at the other end of the pitch but her chip goes over the keeper and the bar. Clever attempt.
59 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Nobbs and Quinn are off for Arsenal. Evans and Mead on.
Kerr has a chance for Chelsea but she takes too long to shoot and the chance is gone.
56 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Van de Donk makes a brilliant run in behind but she cannot control a lofted through ball and it runs through to the keeper. Much better from Arsenal.
53 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Ingle gives away a foul on Nobbs who limps away from the challenge.
A poor ball in is cleared away and Chelsea once again attack. Arsenal just need to hang onto possession for once in this match!
50 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Chelsea apply pressure once again through Cuthbert who has been impressive today. Arsenal eventually win back the ball but they can only partially clear.
Chelsea come again. A cross is headed clear but it lands at Ji's feet who smashes the ball just over the bar. Good effort from outside the box.
47 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Chelsea start brightly before Arsenal counter through the busy van de Donk.
Bright crunches McCabe but the ref is okay with it... definitely a foul, probably a yellow card. She slid in out of control there!
Second-half is underway!
Will it be more of the same after the break?
Ann-Katrin Berger's reaction sums up the mood of the stadium in the opening 20 minutes...
What a half!
Chelsea were outrageously good in the first 20 minutes. They scored three amazing goals and the intensity they brought was too much for Arsenal.
Can the home side find a way back after the break?
HALF TIME! Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
There are three minutes of added time. Arsenal push forward again but cannot create a chance.
They have been better in the last 15 minutes but cannot force a goal. That's the half.
45 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Chelsea are pushed back into their own half before they clear long.
Arsenal attack through van de Donk once again. Arsenal then win a free kick in a dangerous position. Little shoots but it is easily claimed by Berger.
42 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Kerr plays in Cuthbert but McCabe gets back well, blocking a cross. Nice build up play from Chelsea who are just soaking up pressure before countering at the moment.
39 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
The tempo has finally slowed in this half. Arsenal are working hard but just cannot execute in the final third.
Van de Donk is played in down the right and wins a corner. They take it quickly but Ji wins the ball back.
37 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
McCabe is booked for a foul and then dissent. She is showing some fight at least!
The Chelsea fans are growing louder and louder.
35 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Corner to Chelsea. Cuthbert whips it in but the ball is headed over the bar.
Chelsea are playing on a different planet to Arsenal right now.
32 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Ji is starting to get her foot on the ball again. She plays i n England who is well tackled by Williamson who is then fouled by her England teammate.
The ball then falls to Kerr who fires well wide from close range - she should have scored!
Here is the must-watch goal of the match so far!
30 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Arsenal are rattled, understandably. They are rushing possession but the intent is good at least. Van de Donk once again loses the ball in a good position.
26 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
Arsenal are once again applying pressure after conceding but Chelsea hold firm at the back. They just need to concentrate here.
Van de Donk breaks down the right but overcooks her cross. Chance gone.
Here is Sam Kerr's goal
More reaction to that amazing goal
Sensational volley from Sophie Ingle - catches it perfectly from such distance - has Emma Hayes purring: "Wow! Wow! Wow!" from the dugout. Chelsea 3-0 up - as the away team - inside 2-1 minutes against leaders Arsenal— Katie Whyatt (@KatieWhyatt) January 19, 2020
22 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
This has been a truly amazing start to the game. Chelsea have been so, so good. Clinical and high-quality. A statement performance.
GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! INGLE Arsenal 0 Chelsea 3
The goal of the game - which is saying something - has just been scored! A free kick was headed out of the box and then Ingle rockets a half-volley right into the top corner. The keeper had no chance! What a strike!!
19 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
Arsenal attack, winning a corner that is dealt with by Chelsea. The home side appeal for handball but the referee is not interested at all.
Here is Beth England's stunning finish!
16 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
Wow. What a couple of minutes for the Blues. They started brightly and have been clinical. Arsenal are stunned.
Another corner to Chelsea, can they make it 3-0?
The corner is headed away and Arsenal break but nothing comes from a promising attack.
GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! KERR Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2
A diagonal ball from deep finds Kerr in the six-yard box who heads it past the keeper and into the net. Another goal from another seemingly harmless situation. Kerr's first goal!
The league leaders have conceded twice in three minutes!
12 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
Arsenal have upped their tempo since conceding as they try to force themselves back into the match.
GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL! ENGLAND Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1
What a goal! England cuts onto her left foot on the edge of the right hand side of the box, curling it into the top corner. That came from nowhere! Some confidence to take that on, and to pull it off!
9 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
The stands are packed at Meadow Park with fans from both sides making good noise.
Chelsea win a corner as they continue to exert pressure. Cuthbert whips it in but the ball is headed away. Nobbs then breaks before losing possession on the edge of the Chelsea box. End to end stuff!
7 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Arsenal finally break out, charging forward but a ball into the middle cannot find Nobbs who was lurking near the penalty spot. Better from the Gunners.
Chelsea then attack but Kerr's ball in is intercepted.
4 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Chelsea then get a chance to attack as Arsenal fail to clear. Ji looks lively, continuing her excellent form from last week.
Arsenal are getting boxed in their half as Chelsea attack again. Andersson puts in a dangerous ball from the left wing but it is headed away just in time. Bright start from the visitors.
2 min: Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0
Arsenal are pushed back immediately and Chelsea win the ball as the home side sends it long.
Chelsea are then dispossessed. The Blues are pressing well, with good intensity forcing Arsenal backwards once again.
Miedema then breaks down the left and crosses but her ball in is claimed by Berger.
Arsenal get us underway!
The players are out onto the pitch!
Here we go, less than five minutes to kick-off.
Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs both made their 200th appearances for the club in the week
They have just been presented with a shirt with 200 on the back before kick-off. Nice touch from Arsenal.
Can they cap off a big week with a win today?
It is a cold, but sunny day in Borehamwood
Perfect winter conditions for playing football which will suit these two sides that like to play with high tempo.
Elsewhere in the title race
Manchester City are now 2-0 up against Brighton, and look set to secure the three points with just over 15 minutes to go.
That adds a little more pressure to the two sides playing today.
Stat attack ahead of the 2pm kick-off
The Chelsea players are looking relaxed ahead of the big game
Chelsea, if they win their games in hand, can go clear top of the table ahead of Arsenal and Manchester City. However, the same applies to Arsenal who currently top the table. It is so tight at the top that season.
Bethany England was in top form the last time these two sides met
A reminder that today's massive match will be a sell-out!
There should be a superb atmosphere at Meadow Park.
�� REMINDER: TODAY'S GAME IS A SELL-OUT ��— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) January 19, 2020
Please don't travel if you haven't already secured your tickets ⛔️ pic.twitter.com/TBqC206YbK
Both of these in-form stars start today
Here are the teams:
League leaders Arsenal take on Chelsea in a London derby at Meadow Park. Chelsea sit just four points behind Arsenal with a game in hand making this match a huge moment in the title race.
The Blues came out on top when the two sides met earlier in the season, winning 2-1 against Arsenal at home.
Both sides put in dominant performances last weekend. Chelsea beat Bristol City 6-1 away from home while Arsenal won 4-0, also away from home, against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Arsenal have won eight Super League matches on the bounce while Chelsea have won four and drew one in their last five outings.
Chelsea FC Women captain Magda Eriksson believes Sunday’s showdown with Arsenal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League will be a close encounter.
She told Chelsea's club website in the week that:
"There is psychology in football but for me it comes down to who is best prepared to win.
"For me in games like this everything comes down to who is the most ready on the day to beat the opposition. It is two amazing teams so it all comes down to who is ready on the day, who is best prepared and who is most recovered after midweek games," said the Swedish defender.
"It will be a tight race and it is about turning up for every game. This Sunday it is Arsenal but any team we play it is massively important to turn up and give our all. Not only in matches but in training and if we do that I am confident we will win.
"My first year we won the Double. I came in to an amazing team who had already won the Spring Series and then we just kept on winning and winning.
"We had that winning mentality and it was as an amazing first experience and once you win something that is all you want. But I think all of us were disappointed and wanted more from last year and we are hungry to do it this year and win more titles.
"We have put ourselves in some difficult situations this year, going behind, but we have managed to come back in each game which shows we have a great mental strength to really dig deep and never give up. That is the big difference to last year and it shows the big mental strength.
"Our game is improving each week and we are creating lots of chances which is good for the future."