By Joe Brewin at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal Ladies turned on the style in front of a record Women’s Super League crowd with a comfortable victory over Chelsea at Emirates Stadium on Thursday.
Over 5,000 supporters turned out to see Laura Harvey’s side in action as second-half goals from Kim Little and Katie Chapman sealed all three points for the hosts.
Substitute Kate Longhurst grabbed a stunning consolation for the visitors but in truth this was a game Harvey’s side dominated from beginning to end. Little’s second in stoppage time capped a man-of-the-match display from the Scot and ensured a more fitting scoreline on the night.
It was the perfect start to two games in just four days against Chelsea with Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Griffin Park just around the corner.
Harvey named a strong side for the occasion, with Steph Houghton replacing captain Jayne Ludlow in midfield alongside Jordan Nobbs and Chapman.
There was no place for striker Ellen White, however, who missed out with a back problem. The England international had been on the opposing side alongside Houghton when Leeds Carnegie visited the Emirates back in May 2010.
Danielle Carter began as the lone striker, with Rachel Yankey and Little looking to provide ammunition for the pacy striker in behind.
Chelsea, meanwhile, included former Gunners Helen Lander and Dunia Susi in attack.
This was Arsenal’s game from the opening whistle. Harvey’s side dominated the first period and were unfortunate not to be ahead by half time.
Yankey curled a free-kick narrowly wide inside eight minutes, before Nobbs saw a goal chalked off after a foul on Chelsea goalkeeper Carly Telford.
The visitors offered little in the way of an attacking threat as the hosts dominated possession. And, as the half wore on, it quickly became a one-man show from Telford.
The England international was alert to bat away another Nobbs effort inside the box - but the best was yet to come.
Alex Scott’s inch-perfect cross was met by the head of Chapman, whose bullet header was palmed away brilliantly once more by Telford. Carter was quick onto the rebound but the striker could not get enough on her follow-up.
Houghton fired over at the back post moments later, before Telford was called into action once more to deny Little.
The two sides headed in goalless at the break but Harvey’s side flew out of the traps in the second half and quickly took the lead. Substitute goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill had been on the pitch for less than two minutes when the instrumental Little broke the deadlock with a deft chip inside the area.
Quantrill’s first touch may have been to pick the ball out of the net - but her second was much better. Houghton’s long-range piledriver looked destined for the corner, only for the goalkeeper to turn the ball away for a corner.
From here it was plain sailing for the buoyant hosts. Emma Byrne was largely a bystander as Arsenal continued to dominate and with just over 20 minutes later they registered a second goal.
Little was involved once more to supply a pinpoint cross for Chapman, who headed home with aplomb to double Arsenal’s advantage.
By this point Harvey’s side looked comfortable but the visitors set up a tense finish when substitute Longhurst fired home a wonderful effort past Byrne from 20 yards.
Arsenal never looked like surrendering their lead, however, and instead set about sealing the game. Yankey’s rasping drive from the edge of the area sailed narrowly over, before Quantrill’s excellent save five minutes from time stopped Little’s fierce effort.
The substitute keeper was at it again to deny Beattie late in the game with a fine stop in the final minute. But nothing could stop Little, who found the top corner in style in stoppage time to seal another night to remember at Emirates Stadium.
Referee: T Robinson