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Arsenal 2 (Carter 15, Williamson 35) Chelsea 3 (Ogimi 25, Groenen 29, So-Yun 89)
Arsenal were unlucky not to put themselves back in contention for the league title after losing to Chelsea at Meadow Park on Thursday night, taking the Blues three points clear at the top.
Despite starting the game with the inferior head-to-head record this season, Chelsea began sharper and could have struck first if Arsenal's organised defensive line had not caught them offside twice in the first five minutes. But then the Gunners sprung into life on the break and the recalled Danielle Carter burst through Chelsea's back four and buried her low strike past Marie Hourihan in the tenth minute.
Carter looked lively and, after leading another wave of high pressing, won a penalty after being tripped in the box. Casey Stoney was handed the ball and the opportunity to add yet another goal to her season's tally, but she fired just over the crossbar in the 20th minute.
Things got worse for Arsenal five minutes later. Alex Scott was adjudged to have handled the ball after heroically denying Yuki Ogimi on the line twice. The Chelsea striker then smashed her penalty home to level.
The Blues struck again almost immediately from Arsenal's kick off. Jackie Groenen collected the ball on the edge of the area and fired a tame effort at Emma Byrne but the goalkeeper failed to deal with it and watched in despair as it trickled in at the far post.
Arsenal looked rattled and it took some magic from Leah Williamson to lift their spirits again. The midfielder collected Hannah Blundell's short back pass and lobbed Hourihan with a delicate chip to equalise before the break.
The derby was hotly contested throughout and end-to-end football soon turned into tough tackles around the centre circle.
The game seemed to have cooled down in second half after reaching boiling point towards the end of the first period, but Chelsea looked most likely to go back in front in the 55th minute as Eniola Aluko broke down the right and forced Byrne into a fine diving save. The Gunners did threaten on the hour mark when Rachel Yankey fed Jordan Nobbs, but the midfielder's effort lacked the power to beat Hourihan.
While there may have been quality football on display in the first half, the second demonstrated why Arsenal and Chelsea contest the fiercest rivalry in the women's game. Neither side were given the space to create as tackles came crashing in again and again, as the match quickly turned into a midfield battle. Surprisingly, only Ana Borges and Drew Spence were booked.
Arsenal nearly broke through with ten minutes remaining when Niamh Fahey squared inside the box but Chelsea's defenders combined to clear before Carter could pounce.
Then Ji So Yun capitalised on Byrne's scuffed clearance to wrap up three points for the Blues with two minutes to play and end a frustrating evening for the Gunners.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Emma Mitchell, Jade Bailey, Casey Stoney, Niamh Fahey, Freda Ayisi (sub Caroline Weir 71mins), Jordan Nobbs, Danielle Carter, Leah Williamson, Rachel Yankey.
Chelsea: Marie Hourihan, Ana Marques Borges, Hannah Blundell, Katie Chapman, Gilly Flaherty, Laura Bassett, Yuki Ogimi, Laura Coombs (sub Drew Spence 61mins), Eniola Aluko (sub Claire Rafferty 71mins), Ji So-Yun, Jackie Groenen (sub Danielle Buet 89mins).
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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