The Cup double winners succumbed to a late fightback to surrender a 1-0 lead, gained by Caroline Weir’s fine finish, as goals from Bethany England and Maren Mjelde turned the game on its head in the final 11 minutes.
Manager Cushing admitted his side looked ‘tentative’ at times, adding he expects City to respond in the same manner as we did upon falling 2-1 behind at Kingsmeadow.
“We thought we’d done enough but the game got away from us,” he reflected.
“We just lacked a little bit of the aggression we normally have; from the first whistle, I thought we were tentative at times.
“It’s a difficult place to come. You have to work hard to win.
“We knew already what happens – you are put under pressure against a great team in Chelsea, whose matchday atmosphere is incredible and unique in the WSL – the noise in the stadium and the fact it’s full. If you allow them to get the crowd to get on side, it’s difficult.
“With the football we play, the goals we scored and the chances we create, I know that we’ll create chances. It’s just a case of whether we’re clinical enough to take one – and we did.
“We probably lacked a bit of management at the end. We’d expected to be on the back foot a little bit but in the first half, apart from the Bethany England chance – which came from our mistake – we were controlling the spaces, making sure we were defensively solid and compact.
“In the second half, the game got away from us. We shouldn’t have allowed them to put us under so much pressure.
“We conceded a lot of corners, which we didn’t clear with the ball coming back in. We’ll look at that. We’re disappointed to have conceded goals from rebounds.
“The game we played at 2-1 down was the game we normally play – the intensity was up, the desire was up and the players ran harder.
“We’ll look at that. It’s unlike our team and the reason we lost.
“It’s my job to push the players and we’ll be honest, do that and go away accepting it.
“I’ll make sure we put a team out on the pitch against Brighton with the same level of aggression we showed against West Ham and Bristol.”
Cushing also provided an update on captain Steph Houghton, who had gone down with a knock in the first half but – ever the warrior – battled on.
“During the Beth England chance in the first half, her leg was stood on. She’s got a cut on her leg – it’s nothing major but she was in a bit of pain.
“The doctor will look at her and get her sorted for next week.”
Asked whether he intends to recruit in the January transfer window, Cushing replied: “We’re always looking.
“The problem with the January transfer window is that it’s incredibly difficult to get somebody who can strengthen you – we’re fishing in a pond with everyone else and it’s hard to take players off rivals.
“It does happen, especially with the American and Swedish leagues finishing. Players become available and we’ll look. From past experience, it’s highly unlikely.
“We want to put things right next week. We’ll go back to the drawing board and reset.”