Arsenal dominated possession for lengthy stretches of a match that was intense from the start, but they failed to capitalize on their opportunities, notably at the end of the first half.
In contrast, Chelsea punished them harshly by capitalizing on our opportunities to emerge victors from a close match.
The first goal was scored midway through the first half, when Lauren James drew the whole Arsenal defense out of the box with her run, allowing Sophie Ingle to pick her location and curl a shot inside the left post.
Sam Kerr’s goal of the greatest caliber made it 2-0 for Chelsea in the second half, thus ending Arsenal’s chances of a comeback. James was involved once more, as she used her muscle to win the ball high on the right and then passed it to Jelena Cankovic in an expansive area. The Serbian playmaker maximized it by sliding a wonderfully weighted ball through to Kerr, who easily chipped the onrushing goalkeeper.
Emma Hayes made one change to the team that defeated West Ham United in the semi-finals of the Continental League Cup last time out, as Jelena Cankovic replaced Fran Kirby, who suffered an injury in that match.
Hence, Ann-Katrin Berger remained in goal, with Niamh Charles, Eve Perisset, Millie Bright, and team captain Magdalena Eriksson defending in front of her.
Sam Kerr led the attack as a lone striker, with midfielders Sophie Ingle, Erin Cuthbert, Cankovic, Lauren James, and Guro Reiten as her anchors.
Frida Maanum escaped in the left channel and cut inside before curling a shot into the top corner, but Berger was equal to the task and palmed the ball behind for a corner kick, which Eriksson cleared with ease.
Eriksson was involved on the other end of the field when she got her head on Cankovic’s ball into the box following a smart short free-kick routine, but the Blues captain was out of position and unable to put her shot on goal.
This cup match had a true ebb and flow as Chelsea and then Arsenal took turns dominating play and searching for an opening goal. During a succession of crosses from the left flank, the ball would not fall for Kerr, but the Gunners came closest in the first 15 minutes when Eriksson and Berger collided while attempting to clear a low pass across the goal, requiring Charles to cover and clear the ball a few yards from the goal line.
This meant that Chelsea scored the game’s opening goal somewhat against the run of play, but there was no denying the quality of the goal. James did an excellent job of putting the Arsenal defense on the back foot with a dashing run across the box’s edge with the ball, drawing defenders before sliding the ball to Ingle on the left.
The Welsh international took a touch inside the penalty area before opening her body to curl a low shot toward the net. The goalkeeper got a hand on it, but was only able to deflect it into the inside of the post, from which it rebounded into the back of the net.
In the first 30 minutes of this FA Cup match, chances were few on both sides, but that began to change in the final 15 minutes before halftime, with the visitors having the best of the possibilities.
As Berger scrambled over her line, Blackstenius’ throw across the goal almost missed Maanum’s outstretched leg as she slipped.
Again, the Gunners posed a threat, with Maanum sneaking through the Chelsea defense on the right and finding Foord. Her angle shot was stopped by Berger, who couldn’t hold it, but the goalkeeper responded well to dive among Arsenal’s feet to thwart the rebound.
However, with a two-goal deficit, Arsenal began to lose their earlier zeal and Chelsea began to enjoy a greater share of possession. James was completely free on the right flank as we raced away three-on-two in the opponent’s half, but a questionable offside flag was thrown against Kerr, preventing us from adding to our lead.
With much of the game’s tension removed, Chelsea was able to manage the latter phases with relative ease. Berger was able to continue collecting the ball as the clock trickled down towards the final whistle and a Blues victory that kept our quadruple ambitions alive.
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