Match Report

City edged out in Women’s FA Cup Final thriller

City edged out in Women’s FA Cup Final thriller
Women's FA Cup
Women's FA Cup
Sun 15 May
3
2
Sam Kerr 
33, 99
Erin Cuthbert 
63
Lauren Hemp 
42
Hayley Raso 
89
City suffered heartbreak in the Women’s FA Cup Final, falling to an agonising 3-2 defeat at the hands of Chelsea.

Twice Gareth Taylor’s side valiantly battled back from a goal down – first through Lauren Hemp and then in the dying embers with Hayley Raso’s dramatic leveller – after Sam Kerr and Erin Cuthbert had struck for the Londoners, but Kerr’s deflected effort in the first half of extra-time handed Emma Hayes’ side the trophy.

Though City gave our all in search of a third leveller, it was not to be, as the 2021/22 season drew to a close with a thoroughly entertaining affair, which was contested in front of a record crowd of 49,094 at Wembley Stadium.

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What happened

Five years and one day after our first Wembley appearance - a 4-1 triumph over Birmingham - City stepped out onto the hallowed turf once more, as the Continental Cup winners lined up against the FA Women's Super League Champions.

Though familiar foe throughout the years, the pair had never met in Cup Final competition before this season but achieved the feat twice in the space of a few months, having locked horns in March's Conti Cup showpiece, in which Taylor's side came from behind to triumph with an emphatic second half display.

There were no signs of nerves in the early exchanges of this encounter, as City came inches away from opening the scoring inside two minutes when Caroline Weir smashed Hemp's cutback over the bar.

The pair were involved again soon after, forcing Millie Bright into two smart last-ditch blocks, as we looked to gain an immediate foothold.

Chelsea looked to threaten on the counter attack, mainly down the left flank, as Hayes' side grew into the game, and the Londoners thought they had broken the deadlock on 17 minutes as Sam Kerr thought she had beaten the offside trap, latching onto Cuthbert's ball, nipping the ball past Ellie Roebuck and converting - only for the flag to be rightfully raised.

The Kingsmeadow outfit would draw first blood though, as Bright floated in a looping cross to the backpost from the right, where Kerr was waiting to pounce, heading in virtually on the line.

It was almost two as Chelsea looked to take advantage of a rattled City. Guro Reiten attempted to lob Roebuck but clipped over, while Pernille Harder also dragged a long-range effort wide.

Three minutes before the break, Taylor's side found a leveller when top scorer Lauren Hemp bagged her 21st of the season, cutting inside after Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw had done well to hold off Aniek Nouwen and curling beautifully into the far corner.

City had two late penalty appeals at the end of the half. Georgia Stanway - in search of her third Wembley goal - saw her powerful strike deflected wide off Jess Carter, while Shaw was upended under pressure from Nouwen. Referee Kirsty Dowle waved away the protests on both occasions.

Taylor's side should have made it two five minutes after the restart but Shaw could not direct Chloe Kelly's cross goalward, before Hemp fired straight at Ann Katrin-Berger.

Bright then headed a deflected Shaw effort just off-target but again, although City had shaded the early second half action, it was Chelsea who struck next when Cuthbert rocketed an unstoppable effort in off the crossbar from Beth England's lay-off on the edge of the area.

The game was almost put to bed when Reiten curled just wide of the post. As City pressed for a leveller, Stanway blazed over the bar after more good work from Shaw, and Lucy Bronze and Caroline Weir fired wide.

The equaliser would arrive in the most dramatic of circumstances. With just a minute of normal time remaining, Raso outmuscled Magdalena Eriksson to reach Alex Greenwood's floated long ball and poked expertly beyond Berger to send the City fans into raptures.

As the game headed into extra-time, it was Taylor's side who had the impetus in the opening minutes.

Ellen White was inches away from converting Weir's low drive but we could not make the pressure count and once again, Chelsea made us pay when Kerr's low attempt took a wicked deflection off Greenwood to wrongfoot Roebuck and trickle in.

With time running out, we desperately surged forward. Raso almost made it 3-3 before the extra-time break with a volley at the backpost, and Laura Coombs smashed over from a narrow angle but ultimately, it was not to be for Taylor's spirited side, who complete the campaign with a Conti Cup trophy and Champions League qualification.

How we lined up...

Taylor made just one change to the side that completed the league season with a 4-0 with at Reading, as Demi Stokes replaced Julie Blakstad.

Roebuck took her place in goal, shielded by a back line of Stokes, Greenwood, Alanna Kennedy and Bronze, while Keira Walsh protected the back four in defensive midfield. Weir and Stanway occupied the central roles, flanked by Hemp and Kelly, while Shaw led the line upfront.

CITY XI | Roebuck, Bronze, Kennedy, Greenwood (C), Stokes (Blakstad 83'), Walsh (Losada 129'), Stanway (Coombs 80'), Weir, Kelly (Raso 76'), Shaw (White 80'), Hemp

SUBS | Keating, Angeldahl, Park, Mace

CHELSEA XI | Berger, Nouwen (Charles 69'), Bright, Ingle, Carter, England (Ji 69') (Mjelde 129'), Reiten, Eriksson (C), Kerr, Cuthbert, Harder (Fleming 80')

SUBS | Musovic, Kirby, James, Spence, Andersson

Stats

• Club Player of the Year Lauren Hemp finishes the campaign as the Club's top scorer with 21 goals in 37 appearances.

• This marked the ninth-successive year that one of City or Chelsea were in the Final with both sides having lifted the Cup in each of the last six seasons.

• The attendance of 49,094 marked a record crowd for the Women's FA Cup Final, surpassing the previous record of 45,423.

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