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Russo inspires Arsenal to Chelsea demolition in front of WSL record crowd

Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the season came to a shuddering halt this afternoon as Arsenal turned on the style on a rain-soaked afternoon in North London.

Pre-match, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had warned about Arsenal’s ability on the counter and the warning signs were there early on as Beth Mead and Caitlin Foord threatened from wide areas.

It took less than eight minutes for Arsenal’s threat in transition to hurt Chelsea, as the Gunners cleared the ball from the edge of their area to Foord on the left. Her penetrating run led to Victoria Pelova turning deftly in the box and laying off to Mead who showed exquisite composure to cut on to her left and finish emphatically.

The defending champions are no pushovers however, and they responded quickly as the impressive Niamh Charles broke away down the left and fed Jessie Fleming who drove at the Arsenal defence. Her well-timed ball played in Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd who cut onto her left and finished neatly at the near post.

If the equaliser gave rise to hopes that Chelsea would settle into their rhythm, then these were soon dashed as Arsenal continued to dominate the ball and force Chelsea deeper into their own half.

Coming into the game, Arsenal were yet to score a headed goal all season, surprising given the aerial prowess of players such as Amanda Ilestedt. The Swedish international however would not have to wait much longer as an Arsenal corner allowed her to bully Jess Carter and nod the ball past a hapless Ann-Katrin Berger.

The goal took Arsenal, backed by a record WSL attendance of 59,042 to another level and put Chelsea on the ropes. Soon after, an inch perfect through ball from Wubben-Roy sent Russo through on goal, who finished in a way that Thierry Henry made famous at the Emirates years ago.

A halftime triple substitution gave a clear indication of Emma Hayes’ thoughts on her sides first half performance and the changes helped Chelsea to find their way into the game with a tweaked formation working to some degree in allowing Chelsea to bring captain Sam Kerr into the game.

Chelsea could perhaps count themselves lucky to keep eleven players on the pitch after Lauren James’ petulant stamp on Walti that would have surely seen a repeat of her World Cup sending off had VAR been in operation. Emma Hayes wisely substituted the maverick winger soon after.

But as Chelsea threw numbers forward in the hope of salvaging something from the game, Arsenal’s effectiveness on the counter only strengthened.

On 72 mins, the game was over as a contest as a transition on halfway saw Russo through on goal before being clumsily taken out by the unconvincing Berger. Russo was clinical with the resultant spot kick and the 4-1 scoreline gave the champions no route back.

It could have been worse for the Blues, had substitute Stina Blackstenius been more ruthless, with several chances going begging in the latter stages as the Gunners eased to victory.

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall labelled his side’s performance as the best of the season saying: “It was a really strong performance, especially the first half where I think we killed the game.”

Pressed on the impact of the result on the title race, the Gunners boss stated: “It is great that we won today but let’s not get carried away. It doesn’t count for anything if we’re not ready on Saturday against Tottenham.”

Reflecting on an uncharacteristic showing from her defending champions, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said: “I thought we defended as a team poorly and we got bullied today, something that we’re not used to.”

On Arsenal’s performance, Player of the Match Russo explained: “We wanted to start aggressive, be on the front foot and we did that. We trusted in the gameplan, and it came to fruition today.”

The result takes Arsenal level on points with Chelsea, second only on goal difference and opens up the title race as we approach the halfway point of the season.

X: @ConorWilson2


Insta: @conorwilsonwrites

Featured Image: Via Twitter (@ArsenalWFC)


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