ANALYSIS: Chelsea Ladies 2-1 MCWFC – FA Cup Semi Final

City Women were cruelly dumped out of the Women’s FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea Ladies for the second year running after conceding in the final minute of extra time.

The Blues kept Chelsea at bay for the majority of the game and took the lead in the 72nd minute courtesy of Jane Ross, but City just couldn’t hold on – a deft Ji So-Yun free-kick evened up the scoreline for the current holders with less than five minutes remaining. The tie headed into extra time, with Fran Kirby slotting the ball past Bardsley at the death to end City’s hopes of reaching Wembley.

City started the game with a strong line-up, with Karen Bardsley, Jill Scott and Toni Duggan back into the starting XI. Jennifer Beattie found herself on the bench after returning to the squad following time out due to injury.

City looked bright in the opening couple of minutes and were presented with a half-chance as Lucy Bronze’s cross from City’s right flank found Jane Ross in the box, but her effort went just wide of Lindahl’s left post. Chelsea came straight back at City though, and Steph Houghton found herself having to work hard to chase down Aluko’s pacy break.

It was end to end in the first half with both sides looking to take the game by the scruff of the neck – tackles came in from every angle and both forward lines broke at pace to try and break the deadlock, but neither team could impose themselves.

Chelsea had a chance to take the lead after Aluko’s neat footwork in the box took her past Houghton and through on goal, only for Abbie McManus to make an excellently-timed challenge to deny the striker before she had a chance test Bardsley.

The best chance of the first half fell to City just before the break after Kosovare Asllani was brought down on the edge of the penalty area. Captain Steph Houghton stepped up to take the free-kick, curling the ball around the Chelsea wall towards goal, but Lindahl was equal to it and made an excellent flying save to her upper-left to deny City the chance to finish the half with a 1-0 lead.

HT Chelsea Ladies 0 – 0 City Women

It was a similar story in the second half with both teams vying for the lead, but Chelsea’s formidable forward threat of So-Yun, Carney, Davison and Aluko seemed to start finding their feet, forcing City to work harder than they’d had to in the first half to keep the score level.

Despite Chelsea edging the second half proceedings early on, City created a few chances at the other end. Nikita Parris sent a great cross into the box that was met by Toni Duggan, who’d found an extra yard on Millie Bright, but the City forward disappointingly put her header wide. A few minutes later, Claire Rafferty hacked down Lucy Bronze in what looked to be a foul that continued into the box, but the referee awarded City a free kick rather than a penalty, which came to nothing.

City’s hard work paid off mid-second half though, when Jane Ross managed to scramble the ball home to give the Blues the lead after 72 minutes. Reacting first to Duggan’s blocked header from Asllani’s corner, the Scottish international scored her third goal in as many games for City.

With minimal rest afforded to City’s squad due to the current injury situation, City started to tire in midfield and Chelsea consistently found space to exploit. Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, sensing that Chelsea had City on the back foot pushed up their back line, and it was this tactic that saw Chelsea win a free-kick on the edge of City’s box on the 85th minute after defender Gilly Flaherty was fouled. Midfield maestro Ji So-Yun stepped up to take the free-kick and scored with a sublime finish to force the game into extra time.

End of 90 Minutes: Chelsea Ladies 1 – 1 City Women

Jennifer Beattie made her long-awaited return for the Blues, being brought on in place of Daphne Corboz. Her introduction brought energy to City’s midfield in the opening minutes but it was clear that her loan spell at Melbourne and injury post-return had resulted in her not being fully ready to come on and effectively win the game for City. A tough ask for Beattie, but there wasn’t much more Cushin could do with City’s options on the bench.

It was mainly Chelsea that provided the attacking threat in the first half of extra time, though. Fran Kirby had provided an edge to Chelsea’s attack since coming on for the Londoners, going close in the opening minute – her flashed shot being well-saved by Bardsley’s boot. Soon after, Aluko was through on goal after being sent clear by Kirby, but fired her shot straight at Bardsley.

City fans’ hearts were in their mouths when Steph Houghton climbed above Chelsea’s defence late on to get her header goal-bound, but saw the effort rebound to Jennifer Beattie who could only poke the ball into Lindahl’s arms at full-stretch.

Extra-Time HT: Chelsea Ladies 1 – 1 City Women

Much like the first half of extra time, Chelsea were the better team, attacking City in relentless waves.  City responded and defended for their lives, kicking the ball long and heading the ball out to anywhere Chelsea’s forwards weren’t.

Despite their staunch defensive showing, City were delivered a heartbreakingly cruel blow in the final minute after Fran Kirby drifted into the box, worked her way around Demi Stokes and slotted the ball into the net to send Chelsea into the final.

FT (AET): Chelsea Ladies 2 – 1 City Women

WOTM: Abbie McManus. Difficult to pick City’s best player but McManus was solid at the back. Covered for Stokes and Houghton excellently throughout, held up Chelsea’s forward line all game and made some crucial tackles that denied Aluko from getting on the scoresheet.

Teams:

Chelsea:

XI: Lindahl, Blundell, Rafferty (England ’82), Bright, Flaherty, Chapman (C) (Yellow Card ’27), So-Yun, Davison, Carney (Kirby ’75), Bailey (Spence ’56), Aluko.

Unused: Spencer, Borges.

City:

XI: Bardsley, Bronze (Yellow Card ’68), Houghton (C), McManus, Stokes, Corboz (Beattie ’90 (ET)), Scott, Duggan (Stanway ’86), Asllani, Parris, Ross.

Unused: Hourihan, Tynan, Paul.

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Written by Jill Peacock

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