Dan Carter’s spectacular first-half strike saw Arsenal lift the SSE Women’s FA Cup for a 14th time in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium.
The Gunners had the best of the opening exchanges and Carter made their early dominance count with a curling effort from just inside the box which proved decisive.
It continues a sensational 12 months for the Carter, who celebrates her 23rd birthday on Wednesday, having scored five goals in eight games for Arsenal this term, and marked her England debut last year against Estonia with a hat-trick.
Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea
SSE Women's FA Cup Final
Saturday 14 May 2016
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Carter set the tone with just 30 seconds on the clock when she tried her luck from distance following a loose pass from defender Gilly Flaherty, but the ball nestled safely onto the roof of the net.
England’s most capped midfielder Fara Williams – no stranger to Wembley Stadium – was next to try her luck with a direct free-kick that failed to test keeper Hedvig Lindahl.
It had been all Arsenal and on 18 minutes they took the lead in spectacular fashion.
Defender Casey Stoney sent a diagonal pass to Carter on the left flank. Having failed to get the better of Chelsea full-back Hannah Blundell down the outside on a number of occasions this time Carter opted to come inside on her right foot before unleashing a fabulous curling effort into the top-right corner.
Chelsea looked for an instant response and Fran Kirby sprinted in behind the Arsenal defence but shot from a tight angle and Sari Van Veenendaal made a smart stop with her feet at the near post.
On 27 minutes Katie Chapman found Gemma Davison in space on the right-flank. The 29-year-old winger burst forwards and crossed low from the edge of the box to Ji So-Yun, who could only poke her effort over the top.
Davison and Karen Carney soon switched flanks, looking for a fresh way to break down a so far resilient Arsenal defence marshalled by Casey Stoney.
When Carney had her first chance to run at left-back Emma Mitchell she then found Drew Spence lurking in space on the edge of the box, but the midfielder scuffed her effort over the crossbar.
Three minutes before the interval Carter had a chance to double Arsenal’s lead when she latched on to Kelly Smith’s through pass but, with only Lindahl to beat, put a weak effort past her that defender Millie Bright was able to clear.
Arsenal began the second half with the same purpose they had the first, and Smith saw a header from eight yards bounce off the crossbar, following good work on the right flank from Asisat Oshoala.
Carter almost caught out Lindahl moments later when she shot from the left-side of the box when a cross looked the better option and the stopper had to improvise and block with her right foot.
Oshoala was proving a thorn in the Chelsea side and after latching on to Smith’s incisive through pass, Lindahl had to be quick off her line to smother away the danger.
Chelsea are the top scorers in FA Women’s Super League 1 this season, with 14 goals in four matches but were struggling to create clear-cut chances to test Van Veenendaal.
With 20 minutes remaining the ball fell kindly at a corner for Ji, lurking unmarked at the far post, but her half volley sailed clear of the crossbar.
In the final 15 minutes Arsenal defended for their lives as Ji, then substitute Beth England saw shots blocked.
Kirby was the last to try and find an equaliser for the holders, but her hooked half volley bounced just wide.
Arsenal (4-3-3): 13 Sari Van Veenendaal; 2 Alex Scott (captain), 5 Casey Stoney, 22 Josephine Henning, 3 Emma Mitchell; 6 Vicky Losada, 4 Fara Williams, 8 Jordan Nobbs; 9 Dan Carter, 10 Kelly Smith, 24 Asisat Oshoala.
Substitutes: 21 Danielle van de Donk for Smith 74, 20 Dominique Janssen for Williams 74, 14 Leah Williamson for Oshoala 89.
Substitutes not used: 1 Emma Byrne, 7 Natalia Pablos Sanchon.
Goal: Carter 18
Manager: Pedro Martinez Losa
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): 1 Hedvig Lindahl, 3 Hannah Blundell, 4 Millie Bright, 5 Gilly Flaherty, 16 Ana Borges; 17 Katie Chapman, 24 Drew Spence; 7 Gemma Davison, 10 Ji So-Yun, 8 Karen Carney; 14 Fran Kirby.
Substitutes: 6 Niamh Fahey for Spence 46, 9 Eniola Aluko for Carney 55, 15 Beth England for Bright 79
Substitutes not used: 12 Rebecca Spencer, 11 Claire Rafferty.
Manager: Emma Hayes
Referee: Sarah Garratt
Assistant referees: Lisa Rashid and Lindsey Robinson
Fourth official: Lucy Oliver.