Arsenal Ladies star calls for more fighting spirit after loss to Chelsea

Casey Stoney of Arsenal Ladies (right) tries to put Chelsea's Fran Kirby under pressure

Casey Stoney of Arsenal Ladies (right) tries to put Chelsea's Fran Kirby under pressure - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Defender Casey Stoney has demanded that the Gunners show more hunger for battle as they attempt to recover from their limp defeat to Chelsea.

Arsenal’s hopes of claiming the Women’s Super League crown were all but extinguished after they slid to their third home defeat in four games on Sunday against the Blues, who are now three points clear at the top.

The home side rarely tested Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and were condemned to defeat by two of their former players – Gilly Flaherty, who headed the opening goal, and Gemma Davison, who netted a penalty.

Arsenal return to action on Thursday against second-tier opposition as they host Reading in a Continental Cup group match (kick-off 7.45pm) and then travel to Millwall in the same competition three days later.

“It’s a trophy and that’s what Arsenal is all about – winning trophies,” said Stoney. “We haven’t done that too much in recent times, so we want to get back into winning ways and start against Reading.

“These are games we can win, to get a bit of confidence back in the side. But we need to be playing teams like Chelsea and competing and I’m disappointed we didn’t do that.

“Sometimes in football you get what you deserve – and we weren’t good enough all over the pitch, to be honest. Chelsea outfought us and won the first balls and the second balls.

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“We could have been out there all night and I don’t think we’d have scored a goal. I didn’t think we looked like we were fighting for a league title and we’ve got to have a lot more fight in us than we showed.

“As soon as they scored, it deflated the team and you can’t let one goal affect you like that – you’ve got to have a bit more about you to come back. We’re carrying a lot of injuries, but that’s no excuse.”

The Gunners – who have now dropped to fourth place in the table – were cheered on by a crowd in excess of 1,500 at Meadow Park, in keeping with the increased attendances at domestic games since the England team finished third at this summer’s Women’s World Cup.

And Stoney, a member of the national squad that exceeded expectations in Canada, acknowledges that Arsenal must tackle their recent slump at home if they are to keep their new fans interested.

“It’s great to have the support, with lots of people in the ground, and it’s brilliant as a player to hear it,” added the 33-year-old. “We need to start playing well and winning, to give these people something to cheer about.

“We want them to keep coming back and it’s important we make sure the quality is good – start winning games and that encourages more people to come along.

“For some reason, this pitch isn’t treating us very well at the moment. I remember it was a fortress when I used to play against Arsenal and we need to get back to those ways.”

Arsenal found themselves trailing after just seven minutes on Sunday as Jemma Rose cleared Eniola Aluko’s effort off the line and, from the resulting corner, Flaherty’s header deflected off Vicky Losada and into the net.

Ji So-yun, Aluko and Fran Kirby all went close to increasing Chelsea’s lead before half-time and Kirby was denied again by goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal after the break.

But the visitors grabbed a second goal 20 minutes from time when Emma Mitchell tripped Kirby and Davison beat Van Veenendaal from the spot.

Another former Gunner, Katie Chapman, could have wrapped up the win with a third goal soon afterwards, but her shot was blocked on the line by Marta Corredera.

On the plus side, midfielder Jordan Nobbs returned from injury for her first run-out since April as a 65th-minute substitute, while 16-year-old Lotte Wubben-Moy made her first league start alongside Stoney and Rose in the Arsenal defence.

Wubben-Moy went off at half-time, to be replaced by Chioma Ubogagu in a tactical change, but manager Pedro Martinez Losa was pleased with the teenager’s performance.

He said: “I think she did very well. I’m not scared to give the young players opportunities – that’s part of my job. She was showing good character and a good level.

“She can be one of the top talents in England. We just wanted to change it in the second half and have something more offensive so we took her out, but not because she was not doing well.”

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