Arsenal win 2-0 but finish second in WSL title challenge
By Football Reporter
Arsenal missed out on a fourth Barclays FA WSL title despite a 2-0 final day win away at West Ham.
Goals from substitute Stina Blackstenius and Steph Catley ensured Jonas Eidevall’s team ended the season on a winning note and that they only lost once in the league all season.
Despite doing all they could on the day, it was not enough to top the table.
Chelsea collecting maximum points meant the Gunners result was academic and by the time they took the lead the Blues had already got themselves in front against Manchester United, having twice trailed.
For a long time it would look like West Ham would deny the visitors three points, but Blackstenius came off the bench to break the hosts’ resilience on the hour mark.
The visitors had dominated possession in the first 45 but were left frustrated at the break.
Arsenal failed to consistently test Mackenzie Arnold in the West Ham goal, bar when Beth Mead forced a smart save and then flashed a header narrowly wide only seconds later.
The title chasers upped the tempo after the break, but continued to be denied by a succession of last-ditch blocks, as West Ham defended like a team with everything to play for.
Vivianne Miedema nearly volleyed in the opener after swivelling smartly in the box, only for Hammers skipper Gilly Flaherty to get in the way.
But Blackstenius would make the instant impact just seconds after coming on, firing past Arnold to open the scoring.
A wonderful effort from Mead rattled the crossbar as Arsenal looked to end the contest and they got their second not long after through Catley’s brilliant finish.
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West Ham United (5-3-2): Mackenzie Arnold; Grace Fisk; Hawa Cissoko; Gilly Flaherty; Zaneta Wyne; Yui Hasegawa; Tameka Yallop; Dagny Brynjarsdottir; Kate Longhurst; Adriana Leon; Claudia Walker.
Substitutes used: Katerina Svitkova for Wyne 65’; Mel Filis for Walker 81’; Lois Joel for Longhurst 82’; Grace Garrad for Cissoko 85’; Halle Houssein for Brynjarsdottir 85’.
Substitutes not used: Emily Moore; Abbey-Leigh Stringer; Brooke Cairns
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Manuela Zinsberger; Noelle Maritz; Lotte Wubben-Moy; Leah Williamson; Stephanie-Elise Catley; Lia Walti; Kim Little; Vivianne Miedema; Caitlin Foord; Katie McCabe; Beth Mead.
Substitutes used: Stina Blackstenius for Foord 59’; Nikita Parris for Beth Mead 81’; Frida Maanum for Miedema 89’
Substitutes not used: Lydia Williams; Simone Boye; Mana Iwabuchi; Hermione Cull, Stina Blackstenius; Jennifer Beattie.
Goals: Stina Blackstenius 60’; Stephanie-Elise Catley 66’
Bookings: Maritz 6’
Referee: Emily Heaslip
West Ham midfielder Kate Longhurst
“Most games we’ve played this season we’ve given teams a hard game, with probably just the exception of Manchester United last week.
“For 60 minutes I thought we were really resolute today. Arsenal couldn’t break us down and that has to be encouraging for us.
“Once they got that first goal that made us a little tired and fatigued. “It was a good bit of play and it was a tough one to take.
“They (Arsenal) try and wear you down, that’s what they’re good at.
“But there were certainly a lot of positives in our performance today that we should take into next season.”
On how they build for next season;
“We have a lot of pride on what we’ve achieved this season but this has to be the benchmark going forward.
“We’ve got a top half finish and a record points tally, but we have to build on that and try and compete with the teams above us.
“We’ve got quality levels in our team, but don’t have the consistency of the top sides and are a little bit away from that. On our day we can give anyone a game.”
Arsenal forward Beth Mead;
On whether they were aware of updates from Chelsea;
“Until half time we had no idea. Obviously then we heard the announcement as we were walking off the pitch at 2-1.
“It’s hard for that not to give you a little bit of hope. But unfortunately it was out of our control today.
“Fair play to Chelsea they have come out in the second half with the pressure on and scored the goals.
“It’s disappointing for us, and is really tough to come away from such a good season with no trophies.
“We’ve played so well but come away with nothing, so we’ll have to look in the mirror and assess that.”