Gunners complete comeback to seal record sixth Women’s League Cup crown
Helsea lost an unbeaten streak since the season opener prematurely as a stubborn and dangerous Arsenal side claimed a record sixth Women’s League Cup title with a 3-1 victory at Selhurst Park.
Emma Hayes’ Chelsea may not be top of the Women’s Super League at the moment – it’s Manchester United – but they are a juggernaut that few teams can stop and have arrived after scoring 12 goals in their last three games.
Indeed, their semi-final in this competition was a 7-0 hammering of otherwise defensively shrewd West Ham. But Chelsea duly reached their fourth consecutive Continental Cup final. Once they were there, they started early – scoring after 98 seconds.
Guro Reiten’s cross into the box sailed past Arsenal’s centre-backs and Sam Kerr snuck home via the crossbar. The Australian poacher 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 fragile. They are fourth in the WSL and have won only one of their last four games.
Yet they answered the chants of those in red among the Selhurst Park crowd of 19,010, turning the screw and dictating the game. They were level after 16 minutes when Stina Blackstenius struck home for 1-1.
And after Katie McCabe cleverly turned away from Sophie Ingle’s challenge, Arsenal had a kick and a chance to overturn the score. After just 24 minutes it was already 2-1 in the spirited encounter, with Gunners skipper Kim Little sending the kick into the inside net with precision.
Within minutes, Jonas Eidevall’s side had almost three when Steph Catley’s aerial pass gave Blackstenius a win, only for Ann-Katrin Berger to save. By now Arsenal were well in control and Hayes’ Chelsea were hanging on.
They were so close to deeper trouble when Blackstenius made a smart run and passed Berger, but the offside flag spared Chelsea blushes. Arsenal kept coming, the Blues off-color were at six and seven.
Hayes, who looked puzzled, responded by replacing Cankovic with Canadian centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan in the 39th minute and switching to a back-three. It didn’t work out, as deep in first-half stoppage time, Niamh Charles headed into his own net from Catley’s corner.
When Lauren James had a tantrum in the 57th minute, it felt like her first notable involvement in a final that simply passed her and Chelsea.
Melanie Leupolz hit the bar late, but Arsenal held on to win a well-deserved first Conti Cup title since 2018. Both teams resume their Champions League campaigns in a matter of weeks. Arsenal have created a surprise here and now they seem the most ready to challenge Europe’s elite.
For Chelsea, it’s two defeats in the last two finals, but they have nothing to complain about. Arsenal deserved to lift the trophy.
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