Chelsea narrowly got the better of Manchester City in a thrilling Women’s FA Cup final, as Australian star Sam Kerr’s deflected strike secured a 3-2 win for Emma Hayes’ side in extra time.
It was a tantalizing match up between the two most in-form teams in the country; coming to Wembley, City was on a 13-game winning streak and Chelsea an 11-game winning streak.
Intriguingly, the last time either of these teams lost a match was against the other, and it was unsurprisingly an incredibly even affair throughout.
It was the first time the men’s and women’s FA Cup finals have been played on the same weekend, and after Saturday’s stalemate between Liverpool and Chelsea, it was apparent very early on Sunday’s final — played in front of a record crowd of 49,094 — would not follow suit.
After a frantic start, the deadlock was broken just after the half-hour mark, as Kerr headed Millie Bright’s deep, looping cross over the line at the far post. It was a deserved opener for Chelsea, which had handled the occasion far better than its opponent in the early stages.
It was the second time City and Chelsea had faced each other in a major final this season, with City emerging as a 3-1 winner in the Women’s League Cup final back in March.
Kerr opened the scoring that day, too, and Chelsea would have perhaps been feeling fearful of experiencing déjà vu, as the lead lasted less than 10 minutes.
Lauren Hemp’s wonderful individual goal got City back level, as the forward cut inside Bright and curled a delightful effort in at the far post leaving Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger rooted to the spot.
However, Chelsea retook the lead just after the hour, and this time it was an Erin Cuthbert wonderstrike putting the team ahead. With very little back lift, she crashed a long-range shot in off the underside of the crossbar City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck couldn’t get close to.
Chelsea must have thought it was the goal to secure back-to-back FA Cup titles, but the City side never knows when it’s beaten.
With less than two minutes of the 90 remaining, Hayley Raso controlled a through ball on her chest and finished brilliantly with the outside of her boot to haul City level once again.
It was a hugely important moment for Raso on the biggest of stages. Four years ago, she wasn’t even sure whether she would walk again after breaking three vertebrae in an on-pitch collision while playing in the US.
But this Chelsea side can lay claim to being one of the best the women’s game has seen in the country.
There were some concerns about whether the physical and emotional toll of winning the women’s league title on the final day of the season’s last weekend, following a grueling season-long battle with Arsenal, would have taken too much out of the Chelsea side, but Kerr’s relentless energy encapsulated the desire the team plays with.
It was Alanna Kennedy’s error, missing an attempted interception, which gifted Chelsea the ball 10 minutes into extra time. Kerr ran more than half the length of the pitch, before firing an effort that deflected off Alex Greenwood and wrong-footed Roebuck.
The victory secured an 11th title with Chelsea for Hayes, who only further cements her place as one of the leading coaches in the women’s game.