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Russo says Blackstenius´ cup-winning goal was ´written in stars´

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 31 Mar 2024

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Arsenal forward Alessia Russo is convinced Stina Blackstenius’ winning strike was “written in the stars” after the Sweden international’s “best mate” Frida Maanum had collapsed during the 1-0 League Cup final victory over Chelsea.

Blackstenius broke the deadlock in extra time, in front of a competition final record 21,462 at Molineux, after Maanum, who was off the ball, had fallen to the ground in second-half stoppage time. She was quickly treated by paramedics and removed from the pitch on a stretcher, replaced by Russo.

Arsenal issued an update early in the first 15-minute period of extra-time, confirming Maanum was “conscious, talking and in a stable condition” and will be closely monitored by the club’s medical team.

Russo, speaking to the BBC after Arsenal won the trophy for a seventh time, snapping Chelsea’s chances at a season quadruple in the process, said: “This season’s been pretty high and pretty low, but we knew we had a chance to win some sort of trophy this year and we wanted to do that and that’s what we did.

“Obviously it’s devastating to see one of your team-mates go down like that.

“We’re all wishing and praying that she is OK. I think it was written in the stars that her best mate went and scored the winner for her.

“Obviously Frida is a massive player and plays with every single bit of her body, and she did that today. We just hope she’s OK.”

Chelsea, who entered the contest looking to secure their first silverware of the season, are FA Cup semi-finalists, remain locked into a thrilling battle with Manchester City for the Super League title and on are also in the Champions League semi-finals.

In contrast, the repeat meeting of last season’s Cup finalists was likely the last chance for the Gunners to get their hands on a trophy. They are nine points behind WSL league leaders Manchester City, who have played one game more, and trail Chelsea by six with five games remaining.

Blackstenius’ 116th-minute winner came when she latched onto Caitlin Foord’s pass and bundled the ball past Hannah Hampton, who had impressed all afternoon.

Russo added: “It’s massive. We knew we wanted this trophy and we know that winning trophies is part of this club’s DNA, and that’s what we want to do as players. We want to keep pushing the bar, pushing to keep ourselves to keep winning trophies.”

Blackstenius, speaking to BBC Sport after scoring the winner, said of Maanum: “It’s always really hard. She’s a team-mate and a friend to all of us. We care so much about her. You worry a bit when stuff like this happens. We said we wanted to do this for her, to get this win for her because she couldn’t be with us at that point.”

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes, who will depart the Blues at the end of the season to take charge of the US women’s national team, told the broadcaster: “Player welfare comes first every time.

“I really hope [Maanum] is OK. It’s always worrying when that happens.

“It’s a tough loss. There was nothing between the two teams, I didn’t think it was a high quality game, to be honest with you. [Arsenal] took their chance and they are winners.”

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