Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (AET): Stina Blackstenius secures League Cup glory in extra time

Stina Blackstenius scored a 116th-minute winner as Arsenal beat Chelsea in the Continental Cup final.

Blackstenius fashioned space in the Chelsea area to settle a tense encounter with a low strike that Chelsea keeper Hannah Hampton could not keep out.

It sees Arsenal retain the title, beating Chelsea just as they did last year.

On a dramatic and emotional day at Molineux, Arsenal midfielder Frida Maanum was carried from the field on a stretcher at the end of normal time after collapsing.

Stina Blackstenius scores the winner
Stina Blackstenius scored her ninth League Cup goal of the season to win the final for Arsenal [Getty Images]

Chelsea, whose dreams of being the first English women's side to win four trophies in a season since Arsenal in 2007 have been dashed, appeared to have taken the lead on 21 minutes through Mayra Ramirez's 25-yard drive.

However, VAR - in operation here, unlike in the Women's Super League - spotted that Erin Cuthbert had controlled the ball with her arm in the build-up, and it was disallowed.

The reprieve gave impetus to Arsenal, who ended the first half stronger. Katie McCabe's stinging drive forced a good save from Chelsea keeper Hampton, before Lotte Wubben-Moy volleyed wide from the subsequent corner.

Cuthbert appeared to catch Blackstenius in the Chelsea area after the break, but that was not enough to warrant a penalty.

Both keepers made important stops in the second half. Hampton was again called into action on 66 minutes, with a sharp low save to deny Cloe Lacasse, before Manuela Zinsberger stood up to the charging Lauren James late on to deflect her effort wide.

Extra time was required after a goalless 90 minutes that ended in worrying scenes as Maanum went down off the ball late on.

Paramedics and physios from both teams tended to the midfielder for several minutes, before she left the field on a stretcher and with an oxygen mask on, Arsenal later announcing she was stable and able to talk.

Ultimately, in front of 21,462 spectators - a new Women's League Cup record attendance - it was Blackstenius who produced the moment of magic.

The Swede muscled away from Cuthbert in the area and fired in to clinch a record-extending seventh League Cup crown for Arsenal.

Lauren James and Manuela Zinsberger
Lauren James was denied a late winner in normal time by a save from Arsenal keeper Manuela Zinsberger [Getty Images]

Arsenal toast trophy on emotional day

This final represented Arsenal's best, if not only, chance of success this season.

Out of both the Champions League and FA Cup, the Gunners are also nine points adrift of league leaders Manchester City and six behind second-placed Chelsea in the WSL with five games remaining.

This has led to pressure on manager Jonas Eidevall, whose only trophy in his near three seasons at the helm was the League Cup last season.

While Arsenal lack consistency to challenge in the league, they are capable of strong one-off performances. After seeing off the early intensity of the Chelsea press, they largely dictated the tempo of this game.

It took almost until the very end to make that pressure tell though, with Blackstenius - again preferred to Alessia Russo as the starting central striker in a big game - having been largely anonymous.

That was until her big moment arrived, and Blackstenius produced the finish to draw immense emotion from Eidevall, his players and the Arsenal fans.

Arsenal lift the trophy
Arsenal have now won the League Cup a record-extending seven times - 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2018, 2023 and 2024 [Getty Images]

Sorry end to Chelsea's quadruple dream

Much attention has been given to Chelsea aiming to win a quadruple, especially as this is Emma Hayes' final season before she leaves to take charge of the United States national team.

The Blues usually steamroll all before them in the league - winning the past four WSL titles - but the League Cup has proved a trickier proposition. Chelsea have now lost three finals in a row in this competition.

Their efforts have been further hampered by a congested fixture list and several key injuries. The Chelsea starting XI here featured six changes from the midweek Champions League game against Ajax.

Such factors contributed to a game high on tension but low on quality. An additional factor might have been familiarity between the sides, with this their seventh meeting in 15 months - giving plenty of time to work out opposition strengths and nullify them.

There were moments of individual brilliance though, with James typically classy and combative in equal measure. A stunning cross-pitch ball set up a chance for Ramirez with 15 minutes remaining, but the Colombian fired wide - before James was inches away from a winner herself.

But Chelsea ultimately fell at the first hurdle of the quadruple, with those hopes ending in acrimony as Hayes and Eidevall clashed at the final whistle, the Blues boss pushing her opposite number's chest as they exchanged words.