Harder’s brilliant brace and a Super Franny Kirby finish sees the Blues humble Arsenal 3-0
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow
Chelsea 3 v Arsenal -
Pernille Harder showed why she’s the best in the business when she rammed home two fantastic strikes to end Arsenal’s outside chance of the WSL title as the Blues won 3-0 at Kingsmeadow tonight.
Two second half strikes, the second a thunderous shot that almost took the top of the Arsenal net off killed off the little resistance the Gooners had left.
Fran Kirby scored a brilliant third on 90 minutes when she produced a classy one-two with Beth England. The striker raced into the penalty area and slotted home the perfect left-footer or seal the perfect night for the champions.
Chelsea go three points clear of second-place Manchester United with 35 points and five ahead of Manchester City who have a game in hand. The duo face each other on Friday.
Emma Hayes demanded a response from her players who slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Brighton on Sunday.
They responded brilliantly
Chelsea started off with the intensity, high tempo and aggression, that was lacking in the weekend game, but it still took 13 minutes before there was an attack on the Arsenal goal.
A smart move saw a quick turn and shot from Fran Kirby, on the edge of the penalty area that, while having the direction, lacked any power and Lydia Williams snaffled the ball with ease.
Williams fluffed her lines three minutes later while coming out of goal, allowing Melanie Leupolz an audacious 35 yarder, but the effort was wayward.
Ann-Karin Berger was the home side’s saviour on 20 minutes when a loose pass allowed Vivienne Miedema to get a shot away. Berger made the goal feel big and was able to hack the ball way to safety.
This allowed Arsenal to feel more confident and they started to get a greater foothold in the game.
Chelsea’s intensity naturally tailed off too.
Leupolz was handed a yellow card for a tough tackle on Beth Mead.
Kirby forced another fine save from Williams on 32 minutes.
Chelsea piled the pressure on the Gooners defence, but they repelled most attempts and when the Blues did break through, like Kirby on 36 minutes, Williams proved to be a barrier too strong.
Ji was next in Amy Fearn’s book three minutes before the break, when she cynically hauled down Jill Roord.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Arsenal started the half well, but it was the Blues who took the lead three minutes after the restart.
Harder picked up the ball 35 yards out, picked her spot, the right side-netting and produced a daisy-cutter that edged past a diving Williams and right on the spot she chose.
Sam Kerr could have killed the game off on 56 minutes when a lovely flick on by Kirby, set the Australian striker clear. She raced into the Arsenal box, left fly with powerful right-footer but saw the ball zip off the crossbar for a goal-kick.
Seconds later, Harder, considered the best forward in world football showed why she is deserving of the title, when she almost ripped off the top of the Arsenal net when she thumped the ball past Williams.
Leupolz was forced off with what looked like a muscle injury on 62 minutes, Erin Cuthbert replaced her.
Emma Hayes replaced Ji with Beth England with 17 minutes left on the clock.
A brilliant save by Berger denied Katie McCabe from getting a goal beck on 81 minutes. Her venomous left-footed free-kick was tipped away to safety by the German stopper.
Kerr’s night ended a minute later, on came Guro Reiten.
The final effort of the game saw Kirby and England combine brilliantly with Kirby slotting home a much-deserved goal and.fully deserved three points.
Berger, Bright, Ingle, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Harder, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Blundell, Carter, England, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert, Spence
Arsenal, Williams, Wubben-May, Williamson, an de Donk, 4th Mead, Miedema, Walti, Roord, McCabe, Maritz, Evans
Subs, Zinsberger, Stenson, Patten, Nobbs, Maier, Gut
Referee: Amy Fern