Beth England netted her fifth and sixth goals in just five matches as Chelsea defeated Arsenal 2-1 at The City Ground to win the FA Women’s Continental League Cup for the very first time.
The forward netted from close range after just eight minutes and while Leah Williamson levelled matters late in the second half, England pounced again at the death as Chelsea saw off an Arsenal side who were missing three key players through injury.
Chelsea started the first half brightly and Guro Reiten saw an effort bravely blocked by Arsenal defender Viktoria Schnaderbeck.
That half-chance proved to be a warning for The Gunners with Chelsea opening the scoring a minute later. Maren Mjelde kept the ball alive following a cross from the left and England was eventually there to turn the ball home from six yards.
Arsenal immediately went searching for an equaliser and Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger kept her side ahead with two impressive saves. First, she clawed away a Louise Quinn header before the German made herself big as she blocked Jordan Nobbs’ close range shot with her legs.
Berger continued to be alert to any danger which came her way and she soon tipped a Vivianne Miedema effort from the left over the bar to safety before Jill Roord drilled an effort wide when in a good position to score.
England was inches away from doubling Chelsea’s lead just before the half-hour mark when she sent a header the wrong side of the post before Sam Kerr saw her goal-bound effort blocked.
The chances continued to flow before the break and Caitlin Foord thumped the ball into the side-netting when given a clear sight of goal while some dogged Arsenal defending prevented their opponents from doubling their advantage.
The second half started with the same early zip and Reiten saw an effort from distance clear the bar before Manuela Zinsberger won a race with England for a dangerous bouncing ball down the middle of the pitch.
Arsenal were too often left ruing their decisions in the the final third, however, Miedema was close to levelling matters for her side just after the hour mark but her shot across goal went just wide of the far post before Kerr failed to force the ball beyond Zinsberger at the other end.
The Gunners wasted a golden opportunity to score with around 20 minutes remaining when Foord found Jordan Nobbs 16 yards from goal but she flashed at the ball, sending her effort well wide before Berger pushed a Miedema header out with her finger tips for a corner.
The Chelsea keeper was undoubtedly the Player of the Match and she heroically threw herself at a Miedema effort at point blank range, preventing an equaliser and being winded in the process.
Her efforts were in vain as Arsenal finally levelled from the resulting corner kick, Leah Williamson firing the ball home through Chelsea legs and it could have got even better for Montemurro’s side had Quinn been able to get her effort on target from six yards.
The game looked destined to be decided in extra-time or on penalty kicks until England pounced from a couple of yards to slide home the winner deep in second half stoppage time to earn her side a first FA Women’s Continental League Cup title.
A record crowd of 6,743 attended the final at The City Ground in Nottingham, beating the previous best of 5,028 which was recorded at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium for the 2015 final.