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Hayes’ Chelsea set to test title-chasing Gunners

Arsenal set for Women’s Super League clash against team managed by Camden-born coach

10 January, 2019 — By Steve Barnett

Janni Arnth scores on her Arsenal debut in the win against West Ham. Photo: Joerdeli Photography – Daniela Porcelli

CAMDEN-born football coach Emma Hayes will be looking to derail Arsenal’s title charge on Sunday when she takes her Chelsea side to Meadow Park in the Women’s Super League.

The Gunners kicked off their 2019 fixtures in almost perfect fashion at the weekend when they came from a goal down to beat West Ham. What made the 4-2 victory at the Rush Green Stadium even sweeter was the news that closest-placed challengers Manchester City were held to a surprise 1-1 draw away at Bristol City, meaning Joe Montemurro’s charges now find themselves two points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.

Third-placed Chelsea could, however, blow the title race wide open this weekend if they can collect all three points against their London rivals. It promises to be an intriguing match as Arsenal have scored more goals than anyone else in the league this season – 46 in just 11 games – while Chelsea boast the best defensive record having conceded just five goals. As if the showdown needed any extra spice, all five of those goals were scored by Arsenal when the two teams met at Kingsmeadow in October.

Former Parliament Hill School pupil Hayes, who won a quadruple as Vic Akers’ assistant at Arsenal in 2007, hinted that the blues and their miserly defence have already set their sights on alternative silverware.

Emma Hayes

“My team have conceded five goals, all in one game, the entire league season. It’s a fantastic record,” she said following their 3-0 win over Everton on Sunday. “We might go unbeaten for the remainder of the season and not qualify for the Champions League. That’s the way it is. As long as we keep improving the performance, our concentration is on the cup competitions.”

Chelsea have now won nine matches on the bounce, each of them with a clean sheet. That record will be put to the ultimate test when they take on an Arsenal side who have won 10 of the 11 league games they’ve played so far. Their latest victory on Sunday came packed with good news for the Gunners, including Janni Arnth marking her debut with a goal, Danielle van de Donk adding two more to her tally, and Kim Little making her return from injury.

Jane Ross gave the Hammers a surprise early lead from close range before Leah Williamson’s header made it 1-1. Arnth headed Arsenal in front, only for Scotland striker Ross to equalise with a low strike moments before the break to cap a frantic first half.

In the second half Netherlands midfielder van de Donk stole the show as she scored twice in six minutes. First she had the simple task of finishing from a yard out, before netting her 10th league goal of the season with a powerful header.

Despite seeing his side extend reestablish a lead at the top, the afternoon wasn’t without its frustrations for manager Montemurro. Reflecting on his half-time team talk, he said: “I think if you were close enough to the changing rooms then you would have heard me!

“We have a set-piece structure to deal with these situations and it was actually on our board. It’s in our set-piece booklet so it was really frustrating to concede in the manner that we did.

“The beauty of it is that even though they scored with two great finishes from Jane Ross, it was our fault. It was our situation to deal with and it was in our control, so we know exactly where we need to improve.”

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