Arsenal beat Chelsea 3-1 to win the Women’s League Cup for a record-extending sixth time in front of a sell-out crowd at Selhurst Park.
Over 19,000 fans watched on at the home of Premier League club Crystal Palace as Arsenal ended their four-year trophy drought and claimed the first silverware of the 2022/23 women’s season.
Jonas Eidevall’s side had to come from behind though as Chelsea, aiming for their third title in four seasons after losing last year’s final to Manchester City, took the lead when the impressive Sam Kerr powered home a close-range header in the second minute.
Arsenal responded well and deservedly equalised through Stina Blackstenius’ calm finish (16) and went ahead for the first time when Kim Little scored a penalty (24) after Sophie Ingle had brought down Katie McCabe in the box.
Blackstenius thought she had scored Arsenal’s third goal of the game in the 35th minute before her effort was quickly ruled out for offside, but the Gunners did extend their lead deep into first-half stoppage time when Chelsea right-back Niamh Charles was deemed to have got the final touch on a Stephanie Catley corner.
After the break, Caitlin Foord was denied what looked to be a certain penalty when Kadeisha Buchanan mistimed her tackle, but it did not prove to be decisive as Arsenal went on to comfortably see out the win, despite Melanie Leupolz’s wayward cross striking the bar for Chelsea late on.
Arsenal trail third-placed Chelsea by five points in the Women’s Super League, but this victory will give them a much-needed confidence boost ahead of their return to league action at home to Liverpool on Wednesday.
How Arsenal ended four-year wait for silverware
England boss Sarina Wiegman, Arsenal CEO Vinai Venkatesham and Blues co-owner Todd Boehly were among the Women’s League Cup record 19,010 in attendance at the Premier League venue, beating last season’s 8,000 total at AFC Wimbledon.
Arsenal were chasing their first silverware since winning the Women’s Super League title in 2018/19, while Chelsea were hoping to lift the League Cup for the third time.
Chelsea took the lead when Erin Cuthbert crossed to Guro Reiten, whose pinpoint delivery from the left of the area found Kerr at the far post. The Australia international duly connected, her nodded effort catching the underside of the woodwork before crossing the line for the opener.
Manuela Zinsberger saved a second Kerr header before Arsenal worked their way back up the pitch, their breakthrough finally coming when Frida Maanum collected the ball in midfield and went on a composed run toward the Chelsea goal.
Her cross into the area took a deflection off Blues captain Magdalena Eriksson and the ball landed squarely in the path of Blackstenius, who fired a low strike into the bottom left after 16 minutes.
Eight minutes later the Gunners were in front. McCabe was brought down inside the area by a clumsy tackle from Ingle and referee Kirsty Dowle immediately pointed to the spot. Skipper Little stepped up, making no mistake as she sent Ann-Katrin Berger the wrong way with a low effort into the bottom left corner.
Blackstenius nearly made it three when she just missed getting her head on the ball at the near post, while it took a considerable effort from Rafaelle Souza to chase down Kerr – flanked by two red shirts – to mitigate the threat posed by the pacey Blues striker.
The two teams were dealt a scare when McCabe drove into the area and collided with Berger as she came out to collect a lofted ball. Both players remained on the pitch to receive medical attention but were eventually deemed fit to continue.
The delay, however, added what proved to be a critical four minutes of added time, with Catley floating a corner into the six-yard box, where the unfortunate Charles directed the ball into her own net with the final touch of the first half.
Cuthbert pushed to narrow the gap after the restart, directing an effort just wide of a post, while substitute Victoria Pelova almost made an instant impact when she forced Berger into a good save with a powerful low strike.
Leupolz was inches away from clawing one back when she hit the crossbar, but Arsenal defended resiliently in the closing stages and deservedly won this competition for the first time since 2018.
Eidevall: We showed what we’re made of
Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s a very nice feeling and I am so happy for the team and for the players.
“It was a really tough start but the way we came back showed what we are made of. There was so much more intent with our runs off the ball and it created a lot of situations. Those runs for the second goal with the penalty – that’s what we were missing last Sunday and we put that right.
“These are the games we want to play. To get results creates belief. Last Sunday, we did a lot of things well but we didn’t get the result.
“It was really important to get that reward and result and now we can be filled with belief for all the games going forward.”
Hayes: Arsenal wanted it more than us
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes speaking to BBC Sport: “The blistering start killed us. We sat off when they got the first goal.
“The difference was between a team that has won a lot and a team that hasn’t. They won the duels and were at a better intensity than us. The best team won there’s no doubt.
“I’m disappointed with us. You can’t concede three goals against a team that haven’t won a lot, which they haven’t domestically. They wanted it more.
“Losing so many duels in the first half. You have to win your battles and we didn’t do that. When you don’t do those things sometimes you need a reality check and the better team won.
“There was complacency. We’ve won a lot and they haven’t and they wanted it more than us. Simple as.”
Little: The way we won made it more special
Arsenal captain Kim Little speaking to BBC Sport: “We are all aware we have not won a trophy for a few years and to win in the way we did made it more special. To be down 1-0 made it tougher but after that, we played really well and deserved our victory.
“We’ve had moments where we have shown we can get to that level and it’s about doing it more often. We showed it against a Chelsea team that has been so dominant.
“We have got some young players, older players too and we’re trying to bring that consistency. You have to be there more often to win trophies and that’s what we need to improve.”
Both Arsenal and Chelsea return to Women’s Super League action on Wednesday as they attempt to chase down leaders Manchester United.
The Gunners welcome Liverpool to Meadow Park at 7.15pm, while the Blues host Brighton at Kingsmeadow at 7.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event.