BY PAUL LAGAN
Beth England scored a late, late winner to kill off Arsenal 2-1 and win the Continental Tyres Cup the first time in an enthralling encounter at the City Ground Nottingham tonight.
The England striker poached the winner in the 93rd minute, at the far post after Sam Kerr battled to gain possession of the ball and turn the tide Blue as Arsenal came from behind with an equaliser six minutes from time.
England had put the west Londoners into an early lead.
But it could be argued that Arsenal were the better side overall.
If it wasn’t for an heroic performance from Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, the outcome almost certainly would have been different.
She made five world-class saves when the Blues look dead on their feet.
Guro Reiten should have put the Blues 1-0 up after seven minutes but Victoria Schnaderbeck thwarted her when she blocked her left-footer, but 60 seconds later and the west Londoners were deserved leaders when Beth England tucked home from close range as Arsenal failed to close down an excellent ball by Maren Mjelde.
A brilliant near post save from Ann-Katrina Berger prevented an equaliser by the Gooners when the German stopper parried away a powerful header by Louise Quinn.
Berger was on the spot again, two minutes later as Arsenal curb the Blues apart and Jordan Nobbs, left footed goal-bound effort was hacked away by the goalkeeper.
Berger was soon. In action again, this time tipping over here crossbar an angled Vivienne Miedema shot from the left.
Arsenal recovered well from the early blow, forcing the Blues back into their own fi al third, but also dealing well wit the penetrating play by the north Londoners.
A brilliant left wing run and cross by Reiten found in-running England, but her header inched past Manuela Zinsberger’s left upright.
Arsenal’s Danielle Van de Donk almost took advantage of loose play by Chelsea but she smashed her right footer into Berger’s side-netting from just inside the B lies’ penalty area.
It was a major let-off for the Blues.
There was no change by ether side at half-time, but Arsenal continued to play on the front foot, forcing the Blues to retreat to their own final third.
However some smart interchange by Reiten and Sophie Ingle saw Reiten try a shot from the edge of the Arsenal penalty area – the ball zipped over the crossbar.
Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson was the first yellow card to be entered in to Helen Conley book on 58 minutes, as she hauled back Jordan Nobbs
Arsenal’s dominance of possession almost reaped it’s reward on 61 minutes, but Miedema’s left footed daisy-cutter just went wide of Berger’s left upright.
Sam Kerr and Reiten combined well on 65 minutes, with the Australian inches away from nabbing a second. But with no pre-season behind her, Kerr’s distinct lack of sharpness stood out.
Nobbs flashed a low right footer just wide as the north Londoners inched closer and closer to drawing level.
Berger produced the save of the match on 72 minutes, tipping a Van de Donk goal-bound header around the post for a corner.
Emma Hayes decided to bring on Maria Thorisdottir on 75 minutes – Ji made way. The tactic was to beef up the midfield to halt Arsenal dominance in the area.
Katie McCabe was given a justified yellow on 81 minutes for hacking down Kerr.
Berger once again thwarted Miedema when it looked like the striker was set to level the score with a close range shot, but Berger got her body to the ball, clearing it away for a corner at her near post.
With five minutes on the clock, Arsenal got their reward when the Blues failed to clear a corner and Leah Williamson was on the spot to slot home.
Incredibly three minutes into added on time Kerr earned the £300,000 a year wages by changing down the ball on the right, cutting the ball back and England was at the far post to prod home the goal and the cup winner.
Teams: Chelsea: Berger, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Reiten, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Cuthbert, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Thorisdottir, Blundell, carter, Cooper, Bachmann, Spence
Arsenal: Zinsberger, Williamson, Van de Donk, Miedema, Roord, McCabe, Quinn, Evan, Foord, Schnaderbeck
Subs: Peyraud-magnin, Maher, Grant, Filis, Mace
Referee: Helen Conley