Our penultimate game of the season ended in defeat as Chelsea recorded a 2-0 victory at Kingsmeadow.
Guro Reiten and Magdalena Eriksson put the Blues ahead in the first half, and despite our spirited attempts in the second 45, the scoreline remained unchanged by the final whistle.
After an open start to the game, Stina Blackstenius led our press, chasing down Ann-Katrin Berger and superbly blocking her clearance before the ball ricochetted away from danger
Blackstenius came close shortly after as Caitlin Foord pickpocketed Chelsea at the halfway line and drove goalward. She fed the ball through to our Swedish striker one-on-one with the keeper but Blackstenius's shot was blocked.
Chelsea's first-half dominance led to an inevitable goal in the 22nd minute, when the deadlock was broken by Guro Reiten. Eve Perisset sent a ball over the top of our backline which found an unmarked Reiten, outstretched at the back post, and the ball bobbled past Zinsberger.
Frida Maanum came incredibly close to levelling the scoreline five minutes later after her rocket of a shot was palmed upwards by Berger and nearly crept in by the post. Maanum tested the Chelsea goalkeeper again from a long-range free-kick, struck sweetly but not directed far enough away from Berger.
Magdalena Eriksson, who will be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season, doubled the hosts’ advantage just before half-time. Sam Kerr got on the end of Reiten’s delivery into the box and headed it towards the Chelsea captain who converted from close range.
We started the second half with energy and intent, looking for a way back into the game after being outplayed by our old London rivals in the opening 45.
Pernille Harder, who also announced her departure from the club this week, had a number of opportunities to extend Chelsea's lead on the counter but she was thwarted by instinctive stops from Manuela Zinsberger and a clutch sliding tackle from Jen Beattie.
The potential for a comeback continued to grow into the second half. Katie McCabe fired a powerful shot from outside the box which was intercepted by Sophie Ingle’s outstretched arm and the referee awarded a penalty. With our regular penalty takers sidelined through injury, McCabe then stepped up to the spot and despite sending Berger the wrong way, our captain sadly missed the target.
Some powerful strikes on target from Frida Maanum did continue to test the opposition and Steph Catley nearly curled one home from the second phase of a corner, but it proved not to be our day at Kingsmeadow.
What it means
Chelsea now look set to win their fourth-straight WSL table. The fate of the league could be decided as early as this evening, should Manchester United lose to local rivals Manchester City.
On the other hand, if United prove victorious over City, Champions League football is essentially secured for us next season, with a healthy goal difference going into the final game against Aston Villa.
Arsenal starting XI: Zinsberger (GK), Maritz (Hurtig, 80), Wubben-Moy, Beattie (Gio, 88), Rafaelle, McCabe (C), Pelova, Maanum, Kuhl (Catley, 46), Foord, Blackstenius (Taylor, 75)
Subs not used: D'Angelo, Marckese, Goldie, Doe, Godfrey
Chelsea starting XI: Berger (GK), Perisset (Buchanan, 84), Eriksson (C), Charles, Mjelde, Ingle, Cuthbert, James (Carter, 63), Reiten, Harder (Fleming, 74), Kerr
Subs not used: Musovic (GK), Leupolz, Kaneryd, Abdullina, Cankovic
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