Arsenal lost only their second cup final on Sunday as they crashed 3-1 against Chelsea at Wembley in what was their 16th final.
Coming into the game as underdogs, Joe Montemurro selected a classic starting 11, while the Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, was also classical in her selection.
The Arsenal manager reinstated Anna Miedema, who had missed the previous two League games through injury. That meant Heather O’ Reilly and Danielle Carter had to settle for a place on the bench alongside Katie McCabe. There was also a surprise return for Jessica Samuelsson who has been out for the past seven months with a foot injury.
Emma Hayes selected her expected best 11 with a strong bench. Gemma Davison, Rebecca Spencer and Claire Rafferty missed out on a place in the squad.
2. Teams set-up and tactics:
Arsenal 4-3-3: Van Veenendaal; Evans, Williamson, Quinn, Mitchell; Janssen, Van De Donk, Little; Nobbs, Miedema, Mead
Subs: Moorhouse, McCabe, O’Reilly, Carter, Samuelsson
Chelsea 3-4-1-2: Lindhal; Bright, Mjelde, Eriksson; Blundell, So-yun, Chapman, Andersson; Spence; Kirby, Bachmann
Subs: Telford, Flaherty, Thorisdottir, Aluko, Cuthbert
3. The Match
Arsenal played two speedy players on the wing to take advantage of the space behind the Chelsea wing backs and back three.
Chelsea going for the high press straight from the kick-off with Arsenal going direct on the wings was expected. Arsenal were happy to drop the defensive block from the half-way line.
The first big chance of the game came from a Zidane turn by Chelsea’s Bachmann who went round Mitchell but, luckily for the Gunners, her shot went wide of the goal (9′)
Arsenal replied via a 35-yard free-kick from Nobbs that found Quinn’s head but it went well over the crossbar (15′).
Chelsea had another good chance with only a last ditch tackle on Kirby by Quinn on the edge of the penalty area (17′) stopping them from opening the scoring.
Miedema was close to opening the scoring when she made space in the penalty area. Her shot was deflected for a corner by Chapman (21′). Fran Kirby then got another chance, twisting and turning into the Arsenal defence but her shot was not strong enough to surprise Van Veenendaal (26′).
After a even start to the game, Chelsea started to take control and kept possession of the ball without a problem. The Gunners were unable to get out of their half easily.
Dominique Janssen was the first player to go in the book after a foul on So-Yun on top of multiple fouls in a short period of time.
The resulting free-kick from the Korean playmaker yielded no result (42′). Chelsea went close again, this time Bachmann going round Mitchell again and laying it off beautifully to So-Yun who did not hit the target (44′)
Half-time was reached at 0-0 with Chelsea edging it but unable to convert any of their multiple chances.
Chelsea opened the scoring early in the second half, a simple Kirby run and a through ball to Bachmann between Quinn and Mitchell and an excellent finish made it 1-0 (48′).
Bethany Mead threatened with a shot that was spilt by Lindhal but the ball went for a corner (50′). Then Arsenal had a big chance with Little intercepting the ball and carrying it to the edge of the penalty area before Miedema elected not to shoot first time with her left foot, coming back inside to be denied (56′). It was a big moment for Arsenal.
They were punished four minutes later when Bachmann twisting and turning again, unleashed a left foot missile that deflected off Quinn and past van Veenendaal to make it 2-0 to Chelsea (60′).
Joe Montemurro decided to go for it by replacing his lone defensive midfielder, Janssen, and sending the American winger O’Reilly on (63′). Chelsea replaced their left-wing back as Thorisdottir replaced Andersson.
Arsenal got a lifeline in the 73rd minute when Mead nutmegged Blundell beforecutting it back superbly to Miedema who did not miss this time to make 1-2.
Chelsea restored their two goal lead thanks to Kirby, who go the ball between the two Arsenal lines and unleashed a superb left-footed strike past Van Veenendaal.
Joe Montemurro played his final card with a double substitution on the 82nd minute. Carter and McCabe came on for Evans and Mitchell, while Chelsea put Aluko on for Bachmann.
Arsenal finished the game in a 3-3-4 formation, trying desperately to get two goals back.
Eniola Aluko came close to adding another one for Chelsea with a powerful shot well saved by Van Veenendaal (90′).
The game ended with a deserved 3-1 defeat as Chelsea were the better team on the day . The Gunners, unfortunately, did not produce a good enough performance to win the trophy.
Overall, it is not a bad first season for Joe Montemurro with the Continental Cup trophy and an FA Cup runners-up medal.
This game was actually a good reminder that Arsenal are not at the required level to compete for the Champions League places and that the summer transfer window will be a busy one.