Women's Super League
Harder 48, 58 Kirby 90
WSL champions Chelsea too strong for Arsenal
- Credit: PA
Arsenal fell to their second consecutive defeat in the Women's Super League on Wednesday at Chelsea as the Blues moved three points clear at the top of the table.
Joe Montemurro made two changes from the defeat to Manchester City on Sunday with Lydia Williams replacing Manuela Zinsberger in goal and Noelle Maritz starting ahead of Caitlin Foord who was ruled out with a knee injury.
With Foord out that meant Scottish International Lisa Evans played on the wing with Maritz slotting in at right-back.
Chelsea won a corner inside 15 seconds as Sam Kerr was played in but her low shot was blocked behind by Leah Williamson as the corner came to nothing.
Emma Hayes' side started the game much better with a higher press and it was the Blues who had the first real opportunity of the game when Pernille Harder met a cross from Maren Mjelde and she headed over the top.
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Arsenal's first attack came on eight minutes when Evans zipped down the right before her cross was plucked out of the air as she aimed for Vivianne Miedema in the middle.
In an opening that ebbed and flowed it was Chelsea who were nearly in as Williamson foiled Kerr once again as she stepped across her and won the ball back.
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Gunners keeper Williams then nearly gifted the Blues the lead on 19 minutes as she came out before losing the ball as it fell for Melanie Leupolz who hit a strike wide from range.
However, a minute later Montemurro's troops had a huge chance of going ahead when Miedema was played in and skipped around Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson before her shot was well saved by the sprawling Berger.
Leupolz then found herself in the book when she took down Beth Mead after the Gunners star made a driving run forward.
On 25 minutes the Gunners had another good opportunity when Evans whipped a cross in that Bright headed the ball away before Berger raced off her line and grabbed the loose ball ahead of Miedema.
Wlliams made a fantastic save to keep Arsenal level as Kirby picked up the ball on the edge of the area and stabbed her shot goalwards but the Australian international got down well to tip the ball behind for a corner.
Kirby was starting to pull the strings for Chelsea and she got in on goal but her shot across the near post was well beaten away by Williams.
On 40 minutes it was Kirby again who was causing Arsenal problems when she slipped into the area before her effort was saved by the feet of Williams before Williamson cleared the danger ahead of Kerr.
It was the Gunners who had the final opportunity of the first half when they countered as van de Donk played in Evans who blazed her strike over the top at the back post.
Arsenal had the first half-chance of the second half when Maritz played the ball into the box but Berger was on hand to smother the loose ball.
However, Chelsea did take the lead when Harder fired into the bottom corner from outside the box after Kirby had picked up the loose ball before moving the ball quickly to the Danish international for her to find the net.
Arsenal responded well when McCabe got down the wing linking up with Miedema before her cross was stubbed away by Bright in the middle.
On 56 minutes Miedema then created another fine chance for herself as she jinked her way into the box but her effort was well cut out by Mjelde.
Two minutes later it should have been 2-0 for the Blues when Kerr was played In by Kirby but she lashed her shot over the crossbar when the Australian international should have scored.
Hayes did see her side double their advantage a matter of minutes later when Harder scored her second of the night when Jonna Andersson played a pass into Kirby, and her cut-back was hammered into the net, leaving Williams with no chance of saving.
On 68 minutes Montemurro saw his side create another half-chance when McCabe linked up with van de Donk and her cut-back was smothered by Berger in the Chelsea goal.
It was then the turn of Mead who had an opening when van de Donk played the ball into her path after doing so well, but Mead's effort was blocked by Bright and skimmed into the hands of former Birmingham City stopper Berger.
Arsenal made their first change of the night on 77 minutes when Maritz came off for Jordan Nobbs, who was returning from injury after missing the defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
And the Gunners were not giving up as with 10 minutes to go McCabe was inches away from pulling them back into the game as Mead laid off a free-kick and the Republic of Ireland captain's effort was superbly saved down low by Berger despite it taking a deflection off Harder.
Nobbs, who was trying to make an instant impact, was next to try and breach the Chelsea defence as her cross was cleared by Bright before it fell to Evans and her ball in was squeezed away by Eriksson before Miedema could reach it.
Chelsea put the icing on the cake when Kirby made it 3-0 as she was set away in a clear one-on-one with Williams as the Arsenal defence was cut open and she remained calm to slot across goal and into the bottom corner.
Arsenal now turn their attention to Aston Villa on Sunday but will not look over the last couple of days fondly.
Arsenal: Williams, Maritz (Nobbs 76), Williamson, Wubben-Moy, McCabe, van de Donk, Walti, Roord, Evans, Miedema, Mead. Unused subs: Zinsberger, Patten, Maier, Gut, Stenson.
Referee: Amy Fearns.