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  • By Paul Lagan

Erin's brace cracks open WSL1 title race as Blues take revenge over Gooners

Erin Cuthbert Photo by Paul Lagan

Erin Cuthbert struck a sensational brace as the Blues blew open the title race with a 2-1 victory over leaders Arsenal in their own back yard, exacting revenge for the 5-0 drubbing inflicted by the Gunners in October. Champions Chelsea are now just two points behind their north London rivals but have played a game more. It was the best football the Blues have played all season. Especially in a dominant first half. Arsenal came back into the game in the second and there was a nail-biting finish as the Gooners threw everything at the west Londoners. Magdelena Eriksson had the first effort on goal, a free-kick from just outside the Arsenal penalty area on two minutes. But her curling left footer sailed high and wide over Pauline Peyraund-Magnin's crossbar.

Skipper Karen Carney should have put the Blues 1-0 up on nine minutes after Jo So Yuan and Beth England fed the midfielder the ball as she ran into the Arsenal penalty area, on the lefty. But Peyraund-Magnin smothered the effort. Millie Bright had a wonderful chance to open the scoring on 15 minutes. Again Carney and Cuthbert were the architects and Carney's right byline cross was met by centre-back Bright, but her volley was weak and the goalkeeper gratefully snaffled the effort. The Blues took the lead on 26 minutes with a sensational move involving Carney, Ji which saw Carney again send ion the perfect right wing cross, and Scotland international Erin Cuthbert rose majestically to power home a header past a prone Peyraund-Magnin.. It was no more than the champions deserved. Cuthbert tried a long-range effort with 10 minutes left on the clock. But she inched just wide of the right post. Carney lashed out at Katie McCabe right in front of the dugouts but that was a s a reaction to the Arsenal player kicking out at Carney. The referee missed both incidents but the fourth official alerted referee Rebecca Welch and Carney only was yellow-carded. Carney could have volleyed the Blues into a 2-0 lead on 42 minutes, but she miss hit the cross from Cuthbert. Arsenal made a half-time change, replacing Beth Mead with Emma Mitchell. The home side started brightly, retaining possession well. But on 55 minutes, The Blues thought they had doubled their lead as England headed home a Carney cross . but the striker was adjudged to have been offside. On 62 minutes and against the run of play, Cuthbert produced a moment of magic, brilliantly volleying home from the edge of the Arsenal penalty area. Despite the two-goal cushion, Arsenal were on top, and with the Blues failing to regain control, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes opted to make her first change of the game, bringing on Ali Riley and Fran Kirby, for Cuthbert and Carney. Jess Carter replaced England with 12 minutes left. Sophie Ingle entered the ref's book for a needless foul and seconds later, on 80 minutes, the home side snatched a goal back through Vivianne Miedema, who cut the ball home past Hedvig Lindahl from close range.

Teams: Chelsea: Lindahl Bright Blundeville, Angle, Carney, Jo, England, Eriksson, Anderson, Schubert, Spence Subs : Telford, Asante, Carter, Riley, Kirby, Cooper, Bachmann

Arsenal: Peyraund-Magnin,, Williamson, Quinn, Arnth Little, Miedema, McCabe, Evans, Walti, Bloodworth, Mead Subs: Van Veenendaal, Veje, Mitchell, Kuyken

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