Joe Montemurro believes it was Arsenal’s lack of clinicity and quality in the final third that proved to be the difference in Saturday’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup Final, which saw Chelsea defeat The Gunners 2-1 to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
In what was an utterly thrilling 90 minutes of football in front of a record FA Women’s Continental League Cup final attendance, Montemurro conceded that his side struggled to find the back of the net, something that ultimately proved to be their downfall.
“Football is about getting into good positions where you can have the opportunity to score goals”, he told FA Women’s Super League Full-Time after the final whistle. “We didn’t do it, we created chances, we created opportunities and unfortunately, they scored the ones they created, and we didn’t score the ones we created.
“They had three chances and they scored two goals, we scored one, that was the difference.”
In a game that looked to be taking on a similar narrative to their recent league meeting, Chelsea took the lead early on, once again through in-form striker Bethany England. However, unlike on that occasion, where they went on to concede another two goals without reply in the first 20 minutes, Arsenal did not let Chelsea’s early breakthrough faze them and instead took control of the game, dominating for large parts and levelling the scoreline in the 85th minute, before going on to concede, agonisingly, in the dying seconds. It was a crushing defeat, but one that certainly told a very different story to the 4-1 hammering of just a few weeks ago.
This was a distinction Montemurro made sure to highlight, praising his side’s performance and their mentality despite the loss as he told us, “This team will keep fighting, this team does not give up, you saw that today.
“It could’ve been a different story, we were badly beaten by them at Boreham Wood and look at the mental attitude to come back and dominate, to really have the ball and to completely dominate a team that did what they did to us.”
Alongside their problems in the final third, it was the team’s ‘moments of madness’ however, that Montemurro believes ultimately cost them the trophy, one that Arsenal have won five times, and have made the final of in every season bar one. He called for his side to be ‘smarter’ and ‘better in these situations’ and to use their experience before adding “Because we have played in big games, we’ve played in cup finals, we know what it’s all about, we know the pressure.
“We didn’t deal with the cross for the first goal. We studied all the goals that Chelsea have scored against us last year and this year and all of them have been a transition, a second phase and we haven’t dealt with the second phase, we didn’t deal with the second phase in the first goal. Then the last goal, it was just about managing the situation and we didn’t, and they snuck behind us and scored.”
It will certainly be a difficult result to take for the players and for Montemurro, who did not shy away from his disappointment in the game’s outcome, admitting “It’s difficult to answer these questions because I’ve got a lot of emotion and a lot of feeling. I am going to be biased because I am the coach of an amazing bunch of players that for 75, 80 minutes, look, you saw the game.”
Whilst on this occasion Arsenal do walk away second best to Chelsea once again, there is no doubt in Montemurro’s mind that this is a team that will bounce back and fight, not just for the remainder of this season but going into the next one.
“We’re excited. We have Champions League, we have the league, we have the FA Cup, we have a lot to play for”, he said, acknowledging that there is still a long way to go for The Gunners before the season is over.
“Okay we didn’t lift the trophy but if anything this is a great opportunity to deal with big pressure moments and understand and manage them because that’s the best way to learn, albeit not holding the trophy.
“I’ve always enjoyed being in the Conti Cup, its special for me but in the end, the history books will say Chelsea won and we lost, that’s the reality and we just have to make sure we’re there again next year.”