Football Features

Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal: Five things learned as Thorisdottir goal sends Blues second in WSL table

By CJ Smith

Published: 16:59, 13 October 2019

Chelsea came from a goal behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday in an entertaining WSL encounter.

Daniëlle van de Donk opened the scoring for the Gunners after just nine minutes but that goal seemed to awaken Emma Hayes’ side, who equalised through Beth England after half-time.

The Blues found a late, deserved winner through Maria Thorisdottir in the 86th minute, sending them above Arsenal into second in the WSL table.

So, what did we learn from the match?

1. Van de Donk caps off a brilliant week

It’s not been a bad week for Van de Donk.

The 28-year-old picked up her 100th cap for the Netherlands on Tuesday, opening the scoring in their 2-0 win over Russia to leave them six points clear at the top of Group A.

And on Sunday, she capped off a landmark week with a brilliantly taken strike to open the scoring for Arsenal against Chelsea after just nine minutes.

Compatriot Vivianne Miedema dropped off the forward line to create space between Chelsea’s full-back and centre-back before feeding Van de Donk, who had instinctively charged into the gap she had left. From there, it was never in doubt, as Van de Donk fired beyond Ann-Katrin Berger with calm and authority.

Dutch magic for the Gunners.

2. Ji exposes some pressing issues for Arsenal

Chelsea really struggled to get to grips with Arsenal during the opening 20 minutes and it looked as if the Gunners would simply walk with ease back to the top of the WSL table.

However, the instructions from Chelsea manager Hayes were clear from the sideline: press higher and commit Ji So-Yun forward.

Once the Blues finally started to do that, Arsenal couldn’t live with them. Ji suddenly became a marauding presence for Chelsea, winning the ball back all over the final third and allowing her side to transition with speed and ferocity.

Ji became a creative hub and was unlucky not to get herself on the scoresheet on a number of occasions but her efforts highlighted a clear strength in the press for Chelsea, and an obvious weakness to it for Arsenal when they were in possession.

That she left the pitch with cramp in the final 10 minutes was quite understandable.

3. England efforts rewarded

Following the example set by Ji, England was an unstoppable, relentless pressing machine up front for Chelsea on Sunday, putting in some serious yards to get Hayes’ side on the front foot.

During the first half, you could have easily criticised her for lacking a clinical edge in front of goal – potentially tiring herself out trying to win the ball back and lacking energy and composure when her chances finally came.

However, she received her reward in the second half, getting on the end of a Fran Kirby delivery and firing home the equaliser after another breakneck Chelsea counter-attack, this time starting with Erin Cuthbert winning the ball back in Arsenal’s final third.

Prior to Sunday, her WSL shot conversion rate this season was just 13 per cent but as this clash with Arsenal showed, she offers so much more than just goals. When they do come, that’s an added bonus.

A first senior international goal last week and an equaliser for Chelsea this week. Not bad at all for England.

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4. Leah Williamson continues to shine

England may have struggled during the recent international break, but the re-emergence of Leah Williamson at the heart of their defence was definitely a positive.

“What you’ve seen over the last few days is one or two players have come in and cemented their place in the team for the Wembley game,” Phil Neville said of her performances against Brazil and Portugal, referencing England’s upcoming fixture with Germany where over 80,000 fans are expected to turn up.

And on Sunday, as Chelsea grew into the game and asked serious questions, Williamson stood up with (nearly) all the answers.

In the air, she was dominant. In one-on-ones, she had control and composure. On the ball, she was measured and ambitious.

Neville has apparently been under a large amount of pressure from fans to field Williamson in his starting XI more often – her recent starts were her first since England’s SheBelieves Cup success in March. Sunday showed exactly why that’s the case, even if she was a little let down by her team-mates.

5. Title race wide open after late show

Last season, Arsenal won each of their nine opening fixtures, while they were on a run of 11-straight WSL wins heading into Sunday’s match. In short, the reigning champions have been commanding and unstoppable.

Van de Donk’s early opener looked to have them back atop the WSL table, leapfrogging Man City, but, as mentioned, Chelsea kicked into gear.

Their equaliser was deserved and although Arsenal improved thereafter, the Chelsea winner was not exactly a surprise, although the goalscorer was.

Having only come on in the 74th minute, Maria Thorisdottir picked the ball up on the edge of the Arsenal area on 85 minutes and curled a lovely strike into Manuela Zinsberger’s far-left corner.

That was the Norwegian’s first Chelsea goal in over a year and it not only denied Arsenal top spot but also put Chelsea ahead of the Gunners in second place, just two points behind the summit themselves.