By Callum Hosier
A double from Fran Kirby saw Arsenal Ladies slip to a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea at Meadow Park on Thursday.
The England striker gave the Blues an early lead after an energetic start by the Blues, but Pedro Martinez Losa's side had chances of their own, with Danielle van de Donk and Marta Corredera both going close in the first half.
Chelsea came out firing again after the interval, but it was Arsenal who had the more clear-cut chances. Jordan Nobbs found the back of the net with a long-range strike but the referee had already blown the whistle for an Arsenal free-kick.
The Gunners’ momentum was cruelly halted with 10 minutes to go, though, when Kirby hammered home from close range to double her side’s lead.
Arsenal fought well but could not find the clinical touch against their London rivals, and will certainly be looking for revenge when the two sides meet in the FA Women’s Cup final at Wembley on May 14.
SETTING THE SCENE
Losa’s side came into the match on the back an emphatic 7-0 victory against Sunderland Ladies in the FA Women's Cup semi-final.
Van de Donk continued to lead the line after her exceptional performance in that game resulted in a hat-trick, while Alex Scott returned to replace the suspended Emma Mitchell in defence.
Leah Williamson and Fara Williams were also recalled to the starting XI.
After a tense opening, it was Arsenal who came closest in the opening 10 minutes. Van de Donk leapt to meet Scott's curling cross and headed the ball just past the far post.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, it was the visitors who took the lead. Kirby latched onto Ji So-yun’s long ball to lift the ball over Sari Van Veenendaal and into the Arsenal net.
Corredera nearly struck back immediately but her powerful half-volley was blocked on its way to goal.
Arsenal continued to press after the break and Jordan Nobbs thought she had equalised with a 25-yard strike soon after the restart, only for the referee to call the play back and give the Gunners a free-kick.
Williams’ resulting free-kick was spilled by Hedvig Lindahl but Asisat Oshala could not convert the follow-up from close range.
Despite the Gunners’ dominance, though, Chelsea struck again when Kirby added her second from close range from a corner. Williamson did well to block the original shot but Kirby pounced, despite the shouts of hand ball from the Arsenal players.
Referee: Craig Hicks
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