Guro Reiten scores stunner as Chelsea raise game to defeat Arsenal in FA Cup semi-final

Chelsea celebrate Guro Reiten’s opening goal

There has been very little to separate the best two teams in England this season but this was another occasion to demonstrate that Chelsea have a clear edge over Arsenal in this particular rivalry.

Emma Hayes’ side are into another FA Cup final after raising their level when they needed it most. Guro Reiten’s stunning opening goal was the moment of quality this semi-final desperately required and from there Chelsea were emphatic in displaying why they are the champions of England and leading the Gunners in the race to defend their title.

They will face a resurgent Manchester City in the final at Wembley, having already won there this campaign in claiming last season’s delayed FA Cup final with a commanding 3-0 win against Arsenal. Chelsea were perhaps more forgiving this time around and Arsenal in the end were grateful for it.

Chelsea gave Arsenal a chance after making a slow start at Meadow Park and Jonas Eidevall’s side will regret not building on their opening dominance. The Blues looked rattled in the face of early pressure but were rather let off by an inaccurate Arsenal performance. They became frustrated after struggling to break Chelsea down and yet again failed to get their attack to fire in a big game this season.

Reiten’s goal from all of 25 yards was the turning point here and came just moments after Beth Mead missed Arsenal’s best chance of the match at the other end. Chelsea didn’t look back – with Ji So-Yun adding an excellent second soon after in the second half. It could have easily been more while Arsenal failed to land a shot on target.

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This was the fourth act of Chelsea and Arsenal’s rivalry this season. Separated by just one point in the Women’s Super League table, Arsenal got on the front foot with an opening victory at the Emirates and thrilling 0-0 draw followed in the return fixture – with Chelsea winning last season’s FA Cup final in between.

Chelsea have since edged ahead in the title race but it was Arsenal who made the brighter start. There was an urgency in their play and Chelsea had to dig in, although the first half was disappointingly low on quality given their players on show and the contests produced by both these teams already this season.

Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord combined well on the left in the opening stages to reach the byline, where Mead also found space later, but they couldn’t produce the ball across the face of goal. Vivianne Miedema, floating in the space in front of Chelsea’s back three, excited the crowd with a shot that rose over the bar. Jess Carter was brilliant in defending against Mead and typified Chelsea’s fight to get through their rough start.

Guro Reiten celebrates opening the scoring for Chelsea

What helped Chelsea was having an outball as reliable as Reiten – who was their biggest threat in the space behind Katie McCabe, shifted over to right back. Sam Kerr was unable to receive the same service but Chelsea ended the opening half on top as errors grew into Arsenal’s game in their build-up play.

The first real chance of the game came just within minutes of the restart as Mead controlled a cross in the box and turned Aniek Nouwen in one swift movement. After doing the hard part, Mead fired wide of the post and Arsenal would be punished almost immediately.

When Reiten picked the ball up 25 yards of goal there was little sign of danger and she was invited to shoot as Arsenal backed off. She opened her body to find the angle to loop a side-footed shot past Manuela Zinsberger and into the top corner. It was a goal that came out of nowhere in some respects, but it would be followed by an onslaught of pressure. After Chelsea settled, Beth England forced Zinsberger into a smart save after latching onto a long throw, before Ji struck to double their lead as the space opened up.

Kerr took a long ball forward into her stride and created panic in the Arsenal defence. Lotte Wubben-Moy poked clear but the ball was picked up by Ji, who feinted to shoot by taking an extra touch before rifling a shot off the underside of the crossbar.

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Chelsea could have quite easily matched their tally from their previous FA Cup meeting. Zinsberger denied Reiten a second as Chelsea flowed forward. Ji dragged a shot wide as Arsenal played themselves into more trouble at the back. In response, the Gunners threw on Tobin Heath and Nikita Parris but for a team with such an abundance of attacking quality they were toothless and Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was untroubled.

They could yet beat Chelsea to the Women’s Super League title – although they are now relying on Hayes’ side dropping points. On this evidence, that looks unlikely.

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