The Women’s Super League’s top two delivered a mouth-watering showcase at Kingsmeadow with drama up until the very last kick – but did it deserve a bigger stage?
Chelsea and league leaders Arsenal somehow played out a goalless draw in front of 3,330 fans, with two late goalline clearances, followed by a disallowed goal and a huge penalty appeal in stoppage time.
Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall described it as “the best game that has been played in the league so far” and there is unlikely to be many who disagree.
As both teams delivered end-to-end action, the fans at a sold-out Kingsmeadow gasped, cheered and screamed with excitement throughout.
But despite the thrills, Eidevall said afterwards he was disappointed the match had not taken place in a bigger stadium, in front of a bigger audience.
“There was only one thing wrong, and that was that it was played in front of an audience of 3,000 and not 30,000. That is what is wrong with today’s game,” he said.
“If more games are like this then we will be the best league in the world.”
The two previous encounters between Chelsea and Arsenal this season came at the Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend of the WSL, followed by an FA Cup final at Wembley.
And although this match was shown live on Sky Sports on Friday night, with no Premier League game taking place at Chelsea’s men’s stadium this weekend – Stamford Bridge – it felt like a missed opportunity.
“I think it was a very entertaining game. I think it’s the best that has been played in the league so far. Two very good teams,” added Eidevall.
“Both teams had chances to win the game. I am disappointed [not to win] but I am very biased so I know that. Football and the WSL is the winner of games like this.”
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes described it as a “great advert” for the WSL, while former Tottenham captain Jenna Schillaci told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra the match had “everything”.
“An incredible game, an incredible advert for this league. It could have gone either way. It was probably the best game I’ve ever witnessed in this league. For it to be 0-0, it says a lot,” she added.
Arsenal kept their two-point advantage over Chelsea but Hayes’ side will overtake them should they win their remaining game in hand.
And with eight games left to play for Arsenal and nine for Chelsea, both managers were in agreement that there would be plenty of twists still to come.
The Manchester derby on Sunday could also play a part – should Manchester United beat rivals Manchester City, they will close the gap to Chelsea to just one point.
“There is a lot of football to be played. If [Chelsea] win all their games left, fair play, good work,” said Eidevall. “We will focus on ourselves. I am very optimistic about the spring.”
Hayes added: “It’s too tight to call it. If I was sitting here having won or lost the game I’d say the same things. It’s hard to keep producing all the time and I do think there will be more twists and turns.”