Women’s FA Cup: Chelsea and Arsenal to meet in final in season-defining rivalry

October 31, 2021 Off By Oha


Bethany England and Beth Mead

Chelsea’s Bethany England (left) and Arsenal’s Beth Mead were both on the scoresheet in their respective Women’s FA Cup semi-final ties on Sunday

Emma Hayes always dreamed of leading her side out at Wembley, but it is becoming a regular occurrence now – and she has the final she wanted in 2021.

Hayes’ Chelsea take on Arsenal in the Women’s FA Cup Final on Sunday, 5 December, in a rivalry that is set to define the season.

On Sunday, Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over an injury-depleted Manchester City side, who had lifted the trophy in the past two years.

Immediately afterwards, Hayes, whose team are second in the Women’s Super League, said she wanted league leaders Arsenal in the showpiece at the national stadium.

“I want the Gunners in the final – that would be nice, a nice little derby, fill Wembley out,” said the Chelsea boss.

Hayes got her wish a few hours later as two goals from Beth Mead and another from current England captain Leah Williamson helped Arsenal beat Brighton 3-0.

For the neutral, too, it is the dream final between the two current powerhouses in the English women’s game.

Arsenal have won all five of their WSL matches this season, while Chelsea’s only blip was a 3-2 away loss against the Gunners in an opening-weekend thriller at Emirates Stadium.

From their five WSL matches, Arsenal have scored 19 goals, with Chelsea just behind on 17. By comparison, no other side has netted more than 10.Chelsea take advantage of Man City injuries

City had won the FA Cup in three of the past four seasons, but injuries to high-profile players, including captain Steph Houghton, reigning Fifa Best Women’s Player Lucy Bronze and goalkeepers Ellie Roebuck and Karen Bardsley, left their squad threadbare.

Third-choice goalkeeper Karima Taieb should have done better with Chelsea’s first two goals – scored by Erin Cuthbert and Melanie Leupolz – before substitute Bethany England headed in a late third.

“It was a very professional performance,” said Hayes. “Our mentality was fantastic, the way we pressed, counter-pressed, we had a strong desire to put in the performance that was needed.

“It’s a team that again shows their manager they want to keep improving.”

Hayes has been in charge of Chelsea since 2012, winning the WSL four times, two League Cups and the FA Cup – at Wembley – on two occasions, in 2015 and 2018.

“I’m delighted to be there,” added 45-year-old Hayes. “It’s the one day of the week when I only have to go down the road to a football stadium.

“I’m over the moon that it just happens to be the biggest and the home of English football.

“As a kid, I always wanted to be there and never thought I would be there as a coach but have now managed to do it a few times.”

Emma Hayes

   Emma Hayes has twice won the FA Cup with Chelsea – beating Notts County 1-0 in the 2015 final and Arsenal 3-1 three years later ‘I hoped people would be afraid of us’

While Hayes knows the route to Wembley, it will be a new experience for Jonas Eidevall, the Swede who became Arsenal boss in June.

This is classed as the 2020-21 FA Cup after the coronavirus pandemic paused the tournament for three months to extend it into this campaign, with Eidevall in charge for the 5-1 quarter-final win over Tottenham in September and the comfortable victory over Brighton.

Arsenal have won the competition a record 14 times, but not since 2016 when they beat Chelsea 1-0, although Hayes’ side got their revenge two years later with a 3-1 success.

After the Gunners booked their Wembley spot, Eidevall was asked for his reaction to Hayes’ comments that she wanted to play his side.

“I hoped people would be afraid of us,” joked the 38-year-old.

“It’s a bit surreal [to be going to Wembley], but you couldn’t wish for something better and we get to compete so early for a title – it’s just fantastic.

“I couldn’t ask for a better playing or staff group. The foundations were there when I came in so I haven’t had to build anything new, just something existing.

“We need our strongest team against Chelsea and everyone wants to play the final at Wembley. It will be a great occasion.”

Jonas Eidevall

Jonas Eidevall’s first game in English football was the 3-2 WSL win over Chelsea at Emirates Stadium in September ‘Two bitter rivals’

Former Leeds striker Lucy Ward, on BBC commentary, said: “It’ll be a real match-up, they’re two bitter rivals and it’ll be a really good game.

“The Arsenal girls enjoy playing in Jonas’ team and the way he plays benefits the better players – that’s why they’re doing so well.

“He’s changed a lot, the intensity, the high pressing, the enthusiasm and his personality shines through them on the pitch.”

Ex-England defender Fern Whelan felt Arsenal and Chelsea have been the standout teams this season. “You have to say that,” she said. “You look at Manchester City and they are not doing as well as normal so it has to be Arsenal and Chelsea.

“It’s great to see the competitiveness between them and long may it continue.”