Blues down champions Arsenal 2-1 in titanic tussle at Kingsmeadow after going 1-0 down
Maria Thorisdottir scored a sensational late winner as the Blues won the top of the table clash against champions Arsenal 2-1 at Kingsmeadow this afternoon. And they had to do it the hard way, coming from behind.
The north Londoners took a first half lead through Dannielle Van De Donk - exposing Chelsea’s soft belly at the heart of their defence.
But a second half display, the best in a long time saw England striker Bethany England level the match before that late, winner by the Norway international.
The Blues showed why they are back in the title contention race, having fallen away early last season.
Having already dropped two points with a draw away to Brighton, the Blues had to beat Arsenal to avoid going further behind.
Instead they are now second behind leaders Manchester City.
Fran Kirby had a fine chance on six minutes latching onto a Guro Reiten throw-in. However the Chelsea striker took, one touch too many and her angled shot was blocked for a corner.
The visitors took the lead on nine minutes in the simplest of fashion, effectively walking through the Chelsea rearguard. Danielle Van De Donk, slotted home a low, right-footer that left goalkeeper Ann Katrin-Berger stranded.
Arsenal controlled much of the possession for the next 15 minutes, reducing Chelsea to a counter-attacking mode.
One such counter, on 22 minutes saw England get her head to a Reiten cross but it was not directed accurately on goal.
So Yun Ji should have scored seconds later, but her left footer inched wide of Manuela Zinsberger.
Kirby tried her hand at a shot on 30 minutes after good set-up play by England and JI, but again, her effort went wide of the Arsenal goal.
Reiten produced the shot of the game on 35 minutes, smacking the Arsenal crossbar with a venomous left-footer from 25 yards.
Ji was given a yellow card which was quickly followed by one for Vivienne Miedema - both for needless late tackles.
Chelsea forced the issue late into the half, with England having the first effort on goal, that forced Zinsberger into a save. The striker’s downward header snaffled by the stopper.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
The Blues started the stronger with England flashing a right-footer over the bar.
Maren Mjelde was next to test Zinsberger. But the goalkeeper was equal to the task.
The equaliser was fully deserved, on 58 minutes when a long ball fell to Kirby on the right. She raced forward before cutting the ball across goal to England. It looked like she lost control of the ball but regained her composure and slotted hime cooly from close range.
On 75 minutes, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes made a double substitution which proved decisive.
Reiten was replaced by Maria Thorisdottir - Kirby was taken off for Ramona Bachmann.
Ji had two efforts, one a header, the other a left-footer that both went wide as the pressure on the visitors’ goal increased.
However the South Korean injured herself in the process, and was replaced by Drew Spence with eight minutes left on the clock.
Sensationally, the Blues took the lead with a wonder strike from Thorisdottir. Bachmann picked up a lose ball before clipping it to her left when the in-running Norway international crashed home the perfect strike that gave Zinsberger no chance.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Reiten, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Andersson, Cuthbert
Subs: Telford, Asante, Carter, Cooper, Bachmann, Spence
Arsenal: Zinsberger, Beattie, Williamson, Van De Donk, Little, Miedema, Walti, Roord, McCabe, Evans, Mead
Subs: Peyraud-Magnin, Venezuela, Mitchell, Nobbs, Grant, Filis
Referee: Rebecca Welch