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Helsea lost an unbeaten run that extended into the first game of the season surprisingly as a dogged and dangerous Arsenal side claimed a record sixth Women’s League Cup title with a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park.
Emma Hayes’ Chelsea may not be at the top of the Women’s Premier League right now – that’s Manchester United – but they are a juggernaut but few teams can stop them and they’ve arrived after scoring 12 goals in their last three matches.
Indeed, the semi-final in this competition was a 7-0 win over the defensively skilled West Ham. However, Chelsea reached the cup final for the fourth time in a row. Once here, they started early – scoring after 98 seconds.
Guru Reiten’s cross into the box sailed over the heart of the Arsenal defence, and Sam Kerr was stole to head home across the bar. The Australian scored her fifth goal in only her third League Cup final.
Arsenal arrived as the most decorated team in the history of this competition with five titles, but their recent form has been more shaky. They finished fourth in the WSL and won only one of their last four games.
However, they heeded the cheers of those in red among the Selhurst Park crowd of 19,010, turning the screw and dictating play. They equalized after 16 minutes when Stena Plakstenius fired home, making it 1-1.
And after Katie McCabe cleverly deflected a challenge from Sophie Engel, Arsenal had a penalty and the chance to turn the score on its head. After just 24 minutes the score was 2-1 in this vital encounter, Gunners captain Kim Little slotted the penalty into the inside net with precision.
Within minutes, Jonas Edvall’s side had nearly three when Steve Catley’s overhead pass allowed Plaxtenius hard, only for Anne-Kathine Berger to save it. So far Arsenal have been in a good driving position, with Hayes’ Chelsea holding on.
They were almost in deeper trouble when Blackstenius made a clever run and got past Berger, but offside flag saved Chelsea’s blushing. Arsenal kept coming, the uncolored Blues were six and seven.
Hayes, looking unfazed, responded by substituting Kanković for Canadian centre-back Kadisha Buchanan in the 39th minute and switching to a three-point defense position. It didn’t work out, as in first-half injury time, Niamh Charles fired home from Catley’s corner.
When Lauren James was hit with a fury shot in the 57th minute, it felt like her first note of involvement in the final she and Chelsea simply went through.
Melanie Leopols hit the bar late on, but Arsenal retained their much-deserved first Conte Cup title since 2018. Both clubs resumed their Champions League campaigns in the space of two weeks. Arsenal caused a surprise here and now they seem most ready to challenge Europe’s elite.
For Chelsea, it’s been two defeats in their last two finals, but they can make no complaints. Arsenal deserved to lift the trophy.