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Five-star Arsenal ‘the team to beat’

Gunners stun champions Chelsea to maintain 100 per cent start to new season

18 October, 2018 — By Steve Barnett

Lia Walti in action for Arsenal against Chelsea. Pictures: Arsenal FC

GUNNERS gaffer Joe Montemurro revealed how “little risks” reaped big rewards on Sunday after watching his side thrash reigning Women’s Super League champions Chelsea.

Two goals apiece for Vivianne Miedema and Jordan Nobbs, along with a Kim Little penalty, saw Arsenal run out 5-0 victors at Kingsmeadow – handing the Blues their first league defeat since May 2017, and their first at home since July 2016.

The rout meant league leaders Arsenal maintained their 100 per cent start to the new season and, more worryingly for their rivals, means they have now scored a staggering 21 goals in just four games, while conceding just three at the other end of the pitch.

“It’s nice to win, especially to beat a team that hasn’t been beaten here in a long time, and to come away from home and do it with a little bit of style. I’m very happy,” Montemurro told Arsenal’s official website after the game.

“It’s difficult to say, because I didn’t think the football was magnificent, but you expect that in a derby. They were very good in the first couple of minutes and had a chance and maybe could have had a penalty, then after that we started to take over. We controlled the game, created chances and worked on the gaps that we thought we could exploit.

“We’ve been working on transitions because we knew that would be the game. They attack in numbers and they leave spaces at the back, so we felt that with a smart and patient press, as well as taking little risks, we could find the space behind their defence. And it worked.”

Arsenal took the lead mid­way through the first half after Adelina Engman brought down Emma Mitchell inside the penalty area – and Little made no mis­take from 12 yards.

Little then turned from scorer to provider as she charged at the Blues defence before slipping through Miedema, who raced in on goal and fired past Carly Telford.

Jordan Nobbs celebrates with Beth Mead

Chelsea, who are managed by former Parliament Hill School pupil Emma Hayes, looked certain to reduce the deficit early in the second half when Drew Spence found space inside the box, but Leah Williamson made a stunning last-ditch tackle on the goal line.

It proved a pivotal moment on the pitch as moments later Nobbs made it 3-0 with a fine strike from the tightest of angles. The Gunners skipper raced down the right wing, saw Telford off her line and delivered a powerful effort into the top-left corner.

Arsenal were playing with real confidence, and, with the help of Beth Mead, went on to complete their five-star showing in style.

First the Arsenal and England striker teed up Miedema for her second of the afternoon, and then she raced down the right wing before playing an inch-perfect pass into the path of Nobbs, who fizzed a shot into the bottom corner of the net.

Despite beating “one of the best teams in Europe”, Montemurro is refusing to get carried away by Arsenal’s start to the season. “Let’s not kid ourselves, Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe, they’re a very good side and today they were exposed, but I expect them to come back bigger and better,” said the Australian.

“It’s still early. We have a very big game against Reading on Sunday and they’re a very good side, so we now need to focus on that and make sure we’re ready.”

Hayes, who grew up on the Curnock Street estate in Camden Town and worked in sports development for Camden Council before kicking on with her career in the women’s game, said Sunday’s 5-0 win “flattered” Arsenal, but admitted that the Gunners are the team to beat.

“I thought we were the better team and we were playing well, but we haven’t been clinical,” she said. “At the end of the day that’s the main difference between the two teams.

“Arsenal’s first opening in the game, a penalty, and they go one-nil up. Their second opening in the game, they go two-nil up. That’s the difference between the two teams until that point.

“And then when they’re in the winning position it’s easy to talk about what they do so well, because they’re in the winning position.

“I think Arsenal are a good side. Five-nil flatters them but, equally, I don’t think we’ve tested their goalkeeper enough.

“They’ve waited a long time to get in this position and Arsenal are certainly the team to beat in the league at the moment.”

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