Jordan Nobbs left the field in pain after a challenge from Erin Cuthbert


Arsenal 2-1 Chelsea

Arsenal’s pre-season preparations suffered a major blow as England star Jordan Nobbs had to be stretchered off with an ankle injury during a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in a rare and strangely-timed match for the women’s teams at the Emirates.

The Arsenal skipper was carried off after 53 minutes with her head in her hands, clearly in significant pain after colliding with Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert. The Scotland star another player who, like Nobbs, many felt was extremely unfortunate to have been overlooked for Team GB’s Olympic squad. The 28-year-old’s anguish was clear for all to hear.

Nobbs had to miss the 2019 World Cup with an anterior cruciate ligament knee injury and Arsenal will now pray that scans show this was not as serious an injury as it looked. Especially with their Women’s Champions League first-round games fast approaching and the new Women’s Super League season just a month away.

There was also a less worrying-looking injury concern for Chelsea as their Denmark star Pernille Harder walked off early on with a knock, but that was said to be precautionary. Nobbs and Harder had been two of the biggest-names on show at the home of Arsenal’s men’s side, with the majority of both team’s top international stars still away in Japan for the Olympics.

Hollands’ Vivianne Miedema and GB duo Leah Williamson and Kim Little were among the main absentees for the hosts, who were also without two of their new signings, GB’s winger Nikita Parris and Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi. Chelsea were also fielding a mainly second-string team, missing first-team players including Australia icon Sam Kerr – whose brace helped knock out GB on Friday – as well as Fran Kirby, Millie Bright and their captain Sweden defender Magdalena Eriksson.

That clash with the Olympics made the timing of this big-stadium meeting bizarre in the first place, but the slightly subdued nature of the game was added to further by the fact that neither team’s manager was in attendance. Chelsea boss Emma Hayes was feeling unwell, while new Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall is still undergoing Government quarantine after his arrival from Scandinavia. He is understood to have spoken to his new team before kick-off via Microsoft Teams.

The match started at 12.15, two and three-quarter hours before both clubs’ men’s sides got their own friendly underway as part of a series raising money for the mental health charity Mind, which also includes matches against Tottenham in the coming week. Fans who purchased tickets for the men’s contest were encouraged to turn up early for the women’s match and several thousand did so. They enjoyed Katie McCabe’s first-half opener and teenage substitute Freya Jupp’s well-placed winner into the corner late on, after 16-year-old winger Reanna Blades had levelled on the counter attack for Chelsea with 10 minutes left.

Arsenal celebrate Freya Jupp's winner


However, the two games were certainly not given equal billing by Arsenal when it came to the off-field messaging. The match day programme was largely focused on the men’s sides and its front cover referred to the women as ‘also playing today’, rather than labelling it as a double-header. That will frustrate many in the wider women’s game, who strive for more respect rather than being included as something of a token add-on.

Nonetheless, it was a positive step for the women’s side to play at the Emirates for the first time since 2019, and they might not have to wait long to do so again. The opening round of the WSL season sees a repeat of this fixture, and as the standout clash of the first weekend it is a strong contender to be handed the opening-night Friday evening slot, when the television picks are announced this week.

Sources have suggested to Telegraph Sport that the Emirates is increasingly likely to stage that game, with the WSL’s opening round having been deliberately planned to fall during an international break for men’s football. More visits are expected later in the season too.

Match details

Arsenal (4-5-1): Zinsberger;  Patten (Ackerman, 63), Goldie (Gillard, 63), Boye (Henson, 63), Maritz (Mehmet, 63); Mead (Godfrey, 63), Maanum (Head, 63), Nobbs (Houssein, 53), Walti (Hennessy, 63), McCabe (Herd, 63); Evans (Jupp, 63)

Subs not used: Cull (gk), Negri (gk)

Chelsea (4-4-2): Berger; Wardlaw (Teale, 63), Carter (Brown, 63), Darey (Bowers, 63) Fox (Dungate, 63); Cuthert (Blades, 63), Spence (Palmer, 63), Beever-Jones (Guyatt, 63), Reiten (McGowan, 63); England (Nicholls, 63), Harder (Thompson, 22)

Subs not used: Orman (gk)

Referee: Emily Heaslip