Chelsea win the battle of the blues and retain the Women’s FA Cup

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Chelsea retained the Women’s FA Cup and completed a domestic double for the season with victory in front of a record crowd at Wembley over rivals Manchester City on Sunday.

With a record crowd of 49,094, it was a perfect afternoon for both sides to put on a show, and that’s exactly what they did. Both Emma Hayes and Gareth Taylor picked full strength squads to battle it out for the cup and in the end it was Chelsea who came out on top after a thrilling 120 minutes of football.

Australian forward Sam Kerr was the star of the day for the Blues as for the second year in a row she scored two goals in a final at Wembley, but more importantly she scored the winner for her side in the first half of extra time.

City came firing out of the blocks and they could have been 2-0 up within the first five minutes through Caroline Weir and Lauren Hemp, but the two players couldn’t force Berger into making a save. After the frantic opening ten minutes from City the game settled down.

It was Chelsea who had the ball in the net first through Sam Kerr who was picked out brilliantly by Erin Cuthbert but fortunately for the City back line she was offside.

Just after the half hour mark the deadlock was finally broken. Chelsea were awarded a free-kick after Alanna Kennedy smashed into Pernille Harder. The resulting free-kick was poor, but Millie Bright kept the ball alive on the Chelsea right and whipped it towards the back post for it to find Kerr who easily headed it in. It was advantage Chelsea.

After the goal, it was Chelsea’s turn to start dominating the game, they kept the ball well and had City under control, until the 42nd minute.

Brilliant play from Bunny Shaw just past the halfway line saw her hold the ball up against two Chelsea players, she then spun in behind and picked out Hemp on the City left who cut back to beat Bright and curl a superb shot past Berger to grab the equaliser and grab her 6th goal in six games.

So at half-time the score was 1-1. Emma Hayes would have been happy with how her side took the lead but she would have been disappointed to concede right before the break. On the other hand, Gareth Taylor would have been happy his City side did score especially with the excellent start to the game his side had.

So into the second half we went, and similarly to the first it was City who had the better chances early on. Chloe Kelly put in a brilliant ball from the right hand side, first Shaw missed the ball with her effort, then Hemp had a go but it was excellent defending from Chelsea in the end.

Just two minutes after the Shaw and Hemp chances, in the 53rd minute Bright was so close to scoring an own goal. Chelsea needed to calm down and quickly. Hemp on the left was causing the Chelsea defence some serious problems.

But then in the 63rd minute Guro Reiten picked up the ball on the Chelsea left, picked out Beth England who then laid the ball back perfectly to Cuthbert who fired the ball off the underside of the bar past Roebuck to give her side a 2-1 lead. It was  a stunning strike by the Scottish midfielder.

Straight after going behind City looked to respond and they nearly did. Just two minutes later Lucy Bronze went on a darting run forward from right back and put a brilliant ball into the Chelsea box but it wouldn’t quite fall for Shaw. And then moments later Kelly had a shot but fired just wide of the post.

As we approached the latter stages of the game a few subs were made by both sides. Taylor surprisingly subbed Chloe Kelly who had put in a decent performance for her side. She was replaced by Hayley Raso. After the subs City continued to get Hemp running at the Chelsea defence and had a couple of chances to score through Shaw and Georgia Stanway but they couldn’t find the target.

In the 89th minute the game was level again thanks to the substitute Hayley Raso.

Alex Greenwood played a lovely ball over the top for the Australian, who anticipated that Magdalena Eriksson had misjudged the flight of, she then held the off the Chelsea captain before taking an exceptional touch and firing past Berger to take the cup final to extra time.

Extra Time 

In the early stages of the first half of extra time, City should have been in front. A sloppy pass out from the back by Bright fell straight to Weir who fired the ball across for Ellen White to score but she couldn’t quite get her toe on the end of it. And this moment went onto cost them.

In the 99th minute a mistake from Kennedy on the halfway line saw Kerr pounce on the ball and drive at the heart of the City defence, Greenwood was left two vs one as Jessie Fleming was storming forward to help out Kerr but the Australian didn’t need her. Greenwood didn’t close down the space for Kerr so she fired her shot towards goal and with a deflection of the City captain it left Roebuck no chance. It was 3-2 to Chelsea, they led again.

In the second half of extra time City had their chances to take the game to penalties, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.

So after 120 minutes of football it was Chelsea who were crowned the Women’s FA Cup champions 2021-22.

Overall what an outstanding game of football it was at Wembley.

Despite losing the game, City played some sublime football at times during the 120 minutes and they showed some real class and determination to equalise twice against the WSL champions. Just one mistake from Kennedy was the turning point in the game for them.

On the other hand, for Chelsea and boss Emma Hayes, what a way to end the season. The whole team showed great grit and determination throughout the game by putting their bodies on the line and with the sensational Sam Kerr on the pitch there was always a chance they were going to win. But also what a perfect send off it was for departing trio Ji So-yun, Drew Spence and Jonna Andersson, who have all played their role this season in helping Chelsea succeed again.

Chelsea Women vs Manchester City Women, Women’s FA Cup final – Photo taken by Ashlea Follows

Key moment from the game

Fran Kirby didn’t get on the pitch but the England star was back in the match-day squad for Chelsea for the first time since February and when warming up she received a good reception from the fans who had clearly missed her these last few months.

Hayes comments:

“I’m so happy, that was so amazing for the women’s game today. Two teams who respected each other going toe-to-toe, us taking the lead them equalising and us finding a winner, it was so gutsy. I loved the game plan, I thought it was really aggressive, we had to grind and work hard, and I feel we stopped City’s momentum with the way we pressed.

“To dig it out doesn’t surprise me, I said that to them at extra time. I knew which team was going to be the winning team. I know that when I lay in bed later I’ll be thinking about that moment of the team in the huddle in extra time, where I sort of stepped out of it and I could see Magda communicating with the players, it was just completely calm, it was leadership at a level I’ve worked so hard to try and build and cultivate within the environment that’s not just about one person, me, making the decisions, but the team as a whole buy into what it takes to win.

“I think Manchester City are a top team but I think they underestimated us today and I think our team from the loss in the Continental Cup final felt they had a point to prove and I thought we did really well.

“Honestly, I’m so happy, those women will go down in history!

“I will look back in ten years time and I will say that, that group was immense, it’s the best team I’ve ever coached… they don’t like to be on a losing team and they’ll find a way to win.”

Taylor’s Comments:

“Of course I’m going to be biased but I feel we (City) were the better team across the 120 minutes, we dominated large periods of the game, we started the game well, we had good chances. We also showed good character to bounce back from a disappointing goal to give away.

“In the second half we were in control for large parts of the game, the last twenty minutes I felt we were excellent, just before Hayley scored her goal. And I felt we were the only team in extra time who were going to go on and do it, we made a slight error on the halfway line which ended up costing us, it then became difficult as Chelsea can see the finish line and can see the game out in that manner.

“But I’m supremely proud of the team, I thought they were excellent today, they showed some real good character, it was just unfortunate that we couldn’t quite get our noses in front when we had the ascendancy.”

 

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