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Chelsea 0 Arsenal 0
It finished goalless at Wheatsheaf Park after a hard fought London derby which keeps the Blues two points clear at the top of the table.
Chelsea came into this game, the first midweek home match of the season, on a hot streak of six straight wins in all competitions but came under early pressure. Hedvig Lindahl in the Blues goal fingertipped away a potentially dangerous cross. At the other end, Jackie Groenen chased down a kick from the Arsenal keeper and blocked but it fell safely for the visitors.
Arsenal, who started the match second in the WSL table, two points behind Chelsea with four games played, were forced into an early change when Jordan Nobbs exited with what appeared to be a shoulder injury just nine minutes in. She was replaced by Lianne Sanderson. Arsenal tested Chelsea with a header from Chioma Ubogagu who met a cross from the left but Lindahl saved comfortably.
Midway through what had been a competitive and tight half with few opportunities at either end, Niahm Fahey headed on target for the Blues but it was comfortable for the keeper. Natalia Pablos Sanchon later shot over for the Gunners.
The referee's whistle for a series of minor infringements led to a stop-start period in the game as half time approached and when Arsenal did threaten to breakthrough, they were kept at bay by some strong defending by Niamh Fahey on Pablos Sanchon.
As the half drew to a close. Banusic was able to hold off her marker but her low shot from the edge of the area was off target. Arsenal were the last side to mount attacks but again the home backline was organised and stood firm. Defences on top was much of the story of the opening period.
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes shuffled her pack during the break, introducing Millie Bright for Coombs; the former Doncaster Belles midfielder slotted in alongside captain Chapman. Not long after, Eniola Aluko replaced the hard-working Banusic and the England attacker almost made an immediate impact, creating space for a cross that Davison controlled and directed towards goal but Mitchell recovered well to block the shot. At the other end Pablos Sanchez curled wide under close attention from Borges, before the chance of the game fell Ji's way midway through the half.
Groenen was the instigator, winning the ball back high up the pitch. Keeping cool, she refrained from shooting, instead teeing up Ji who with time and space inside the Arsenal box fired over. What had been a very tight encounter was beginning to open up, a feeling reinforced when Pablos Sanchon nearly got clear down our left.
The alert Lindahl showed speed of foot and mind to sense the danger, race off her line and collect the ball.
The Blues were well on top now and when a Ji free-kick was worked back into the box by the acrobatic Aluko, Chapman picked up the pieces but blasted over. The healthy Staines crowd, not many shy of 1500 people, then saw Hayes make her final change, replacing the industrious Borges with Claire Rafferty.
A quarter of an hour remained. Ubogagu had Arsenal's best opening of the evening after Lindahl and Rafferty overplayed, but the keeper redeemed herself, comfortably anticipating the striker's low effort. A flurry of late Arsenal corners were dealt with impressively, before Davison tested Byrne with a threatening near-post cross after a trademark run down the right. Two minutes of added time could not separate the sides, like the entertaining 90 minutes that had gone before, so both these London rivals left this corner of Surrey with a well earned point.
Chelsea: Hedvig Lindahl, Ana Borges (sub Claire Rafferty 75mins), Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Hannah Blundell, Jackie Groenan, Katie Chapman, Laura Coombs (sub Millie Bright 45mins), Marija Banusic (sub Eniola Aluko 53mins), Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun. Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Jodie Brett, Anne Meiwald, Drew Spence.
Arsenal: Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Jemma Rose, Emma Mitchell, Jade Bailey, Jordan Nobbs (sub Lianne Sanderson 10mins), Vicky Losada, Chioma Ubogagu, Danielle Carter, Natalia Pablos Sanchon (sub Rachel Yankey 75mins). Subs not used: Hollie Augustus, Carla Humphrey, Chloe Kelly, Caroline Weir, Taome Oliver.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Danielle Carter challenges Ana Borges
(middle) Chioma Ubogagu plays the ball away from Hannah Blundell
(bottom) Hedvig Lindahl under pressure from Danielle Carter
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