Arsenal Ladies gained a valuable point in a goalless draw at Staines Town FC last night against a strong Chelsea Ladies team that are still unbeaten in all competitions.
Pedro Losa made two changes from the team that beat Sunderland on Sunday. Leah Williamson who was injured in training (and is currently in a protective boot) made way for Emma Mitchell while Lianne Sanderson was dropped to the bench for the returning Jordan Nobbs who had a hamstring problem and missed a couple of games.
The starting 11 in the usual 4-3-3 system was Emma Byrne, Alex Scott, Casey Stoney, Jemma Rose, Emma Mitchell, Jade Bailey, Jordan Nobbs, Vicky Losada, Danielle Carter, Natalia Sanchon, Chioma Ubogagu.
Bailey played in the six role, Nobbs in the eight and Losada very much in the 10 position.
Chelsea Ladies used squad rotation for the top-of-the-table clash as they have an FA Women’s Cup semi-final to play on Monday against Manchester City. Therefore, Emma Hayes rested four first team players and departed from her 4-6-0 system to go 4-4-2: Hedvig Lindhal, Ana Borges, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Hannah Blundell, Katie Chapman, Laura Coombs, Jackie Groenen, Ji So-Yun, Gemma Davison, Marija Banusic.
Right from the start we saw that the team had missed Jordan Nobbs dictating play and a her vocal leadership organising the team on the pitch. Unfortunately she did not last on the pitch and it looks like her hamstring problem might recurred.
Lianne Sanderson came on and played in a very unusual number six role alongside Jade Bailey in a double pivot central midfield that worked really well. It frustrated Chelsea Ladies and that discipline prevented the Blues from creating any real chances in the first half. The work rate was fantastic from all of Arsenal’s players and they certainly left everything on the pitch.
That superb defensive organisation did not allow Chelsea to play their usual passing game and with their midfield four unable to make an impact and feed the front two, they made a change at half time with Millie Bright coming on to add muscle in midfield but also to play alongside Chapman effectively matching Arsenal’s double pivot.
Bailey and Sanderson against Bright and Chapman.
Chelsea also switched to 4-3-3 with that substitution, and they later put Aluko in to inject pace on the left wing and in the last 15 Rafferty at full back.
Arsenal replaced Sanchon with veteran Yankey for the last 15 but neither team was able to find the winning goal.
Both sides had one big chance coming from defensive mistakes. First Groenen won the ball high up the pitch and So-Yun, unmarked, luckily for Arsenal blasted the ball over the bar. Then Lindhal was dealt a difficult back pass and her clearance went to Ubogagu who could not put a strong enough finish past the keeper.
Overall it was a fair result, between two well organised sides that defended very well and made sure they would not lose on the day.
Chelsea Ladies stay top of the League with 13 points while Arsenal stays in second place with 11.
Notts County are currently third with eight.