Chelsea Women have won the first piece of silverware available this season by beating Arsenal Women 2-1 in the Continental Cup.
Bethany England gave Chelsea an early lead but Arsenal equalised late on through Leah Williamson.
Just as the game looked to be going to extra-time, England was on hand once more to secure the trophy for Chelsea, who are in search of a domestic treble. So, what did we learn?
1. Bethany is England’s number nine
What a wonderful season Bethany England is having.
The English striker has been in excellent form for Chelsea in 2019/20, leading the way with 19 goals in 23 games across all competitions going into Saturday’s final. It came off the back of a summer of disappointment has she failed to make the England World Cup squad despite another impressive campaign in front of goal last year.
But England has apparently used that disappointment as motivation and become one of the most ferocious strikers in English football right now. In the midst of her excellent goalscoring season, England has earned her first senior call-up by Phil Neville and has already scored for the Lionesses. She is also part of the squad for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup will go head-to-head with Ellen White for a starting place.
And England has to start. The 25-year-old added her 20th goal of the season against Arsenal, with a good finish. Maren Mjelde headed a Guro Reiten cross back towards goal and although England missed the kick at her first attempt, she was quick to spin around and finish with her left foot under pressure. And, right at the end, when Arsenal had equalised and looked like winning it – England was on hand to score in injury time and put the trophy in Chelsea’s hands.
England was also dangerous when drifting out wide to test Lisa Evans and Katie McCabe, looking to set up partner Sam Kerr, although her crossing could have been better.
It was a performance that perfectly summed up England’s season, with the forward constantly working hard to add to her tally – as well as for the good of the team.
2. Caitlin Foord provides perfect partner for Miedema
Although she was not involved in any goals as Arsenal eventually lost out to Chelsea, Caitlin Foord has wasted very little time in showing how important she can be for Joe Montemurro’s side.
The Australia only recently linked up with the Arsenal squad having signed in January and scored on debut against Lewes last weekend, before earning a starting berth at the City Ground.
Foord was Arsenal’s busiest and best attacker throughout the night, outshining Vivianne Miedema who had been particularly quiet in the first half before getting more involved. A lot of Arsenal’s attack flowed through Foord and she had a number of chances to get herself on the scoresheet, though was often denied by the wonderful Ann-Katrin Berger.
Foord will be key for the remainder of Arsenal’s season as they push for WSL glory as well as the FA Cup and Champions League.
3. Guro Reiten continues push for Player of the Season
Although a lot of the focus on Chelsea’s season will be the goals of England, praise must be given to Guro Reiten.
The Norwegian international was Chelsea’s only arrival of last summer, being announced before the 2019 World Cup, meaning the signing was slightly overlooked. But she has made sure no one will forget her first season in England.
Reiten has been key for Chelsea in all they have done this season, with creativity in abundance as well as an eye for a goal. In Chelsea’s previous meeting with Arsenal – that 4-1 win in the WSL – Reiten scored and provided two assists and although she did not register this time around, it was another stellar performance.
The 25-year-old was at the heart of everything Chelsea did going forward, constantly providing neat passes to England and Kerr, while also getting into the box herself for chances.
Helping Chelsea to their first trophy of the season, Reiten has to be one of the finalists for the Player of the Season awards.
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4. Arsenal miss Williamson’s presence in defence
In Leah Williamson, Arsenal are set for the future with a wonderful defender, but they need her playing in their back line.
Due to their injury problems, Williamson has been pushed forward to midfield, where she has been able to perform such is her passing ability. But in her absence, Arsenal’s back line has shown signs of vulnerability.
Louise Quinn and Viktoria Schnaderbeck were the centre-back partnership for Arsenal on Saturday and although they did well to keep Chelsea’s attack at bay, they did allow the Blues a lot of chances. And it was Schnaderbeck who was caught out in the build up to England’s winner, being beaten far too easily by Kerr on the edge of the area.
Williamson was also part of the defensive failure, being turned by Mjelde in the box, but had she been in her natural position – potential against Kerr in that attack – she could have done better.
The 22-year-old was also on hand to give Arsenal hope of winning the trophy, scoring the equaliser late on, reacting quickest to finish after her initial header was blocked. Once Arsenal’s midfield gets back to full fitness, Williamson will be able to drop back and everything will be right.
5. Berger helps Chelsea break the Conti Cup duopoly
Saturday was Chelsea’s first ever Continental Cup final and they couldn’t have had tougher opponents for it. Arsenal are the competition’s most successful side with five wins, and Manchester City are the only other club to taste glory.
But now Chelsea are the third name on the list of winners, and they largely have Ann-Katrin Berger to thank for it.
The German goalkeeper was unbelievable between the sticks for Chelsea, denying Arsenal’s attackers with a number of incredible saves. It looked as though she would go on to keep a clean sheet but Williamson’s goal came after Berger had suffered an injury that had hampered the final moments. Nevertheless she recovered and continued to deny Arsenal, setting Chelsea up for the dramatic win.