Chelsea Beat Man United To Win FA Cup Final In Front Of Record Wembley Crowd
In front of a record 77,390 fans at a packed-out Wembley Stadium, under the glorious spring sunshine, the nation’s two top teams, Chelsea and Manchester United, played out a fascinating spectacle in the Women’s FA Cup final on Sunday afternoon.
With thousands watching on in the capital and millions more watching on television screens across the country and further afield, this final felt like the biggest watershed moment for the ever-growing women’s game since the Lionesses clinched the European Championship last summer.
Emma Hayes’ perennial champions Chelsea edged out their fast-rising, Women’s Super League title rivals United, winning 1-0 courtesy of a second-half strike from Sam Kerr. But until the introduction of Pernille Harder, who changed the game entirely, it was the Red Devils who looked most likely to triumph.
United incredibly had the ball in the back of the net inside just 20 seconds through Leah Galton. The flag however was up after Ella Toone was judged to be marginally offside in the build-up.
United continued to dominate possession for much of the first half and were nearly rewarded for their control in the 31st minute when Millie Turner forced Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger to react quickly and claw the ball away from close range.
Five minutes later, Marc Skinner’s side found themselves tantalisingly close to scoring again. This time Galton could only get a shin on a low cross from Alessia Russo and sent it over.
Despite playing on the backfoot, Chelsea showed how dangerous they can be when Lauren James got ahead of her defenders to loop a header towards the far post. United keeper Mary Earps hadn’t had much to do at that point but reacted well to get the ball away with one hand.
The contest opened up in the second-half, with United just about edging possessions, offering up a smattering of half-chances for each team. The Blues came closest to snatching an opener after launching a quick counter that saw Kerr find substitute Harder with a low cross, however the latter couldn’t find the power in her shot to trouble Earps.
Kerr has scored four goals across Chelsea’s past two FA Cup final wins, including the extra-time winner as they beat Manchester City 3-2 last year, so it came as no surprise to see the Australian finally break the deadlock for the Blues in this iteration.
Harder had made an instant impact after coming on for Melanie Leupolz and was in the thick of the action for the opener, playing through Kerr with a pin-point delivery, who stabbed home her 27th goal of the season and her sixth goal in six consecutive finals for the club.
Sophie Ingle should have doubled their lead ten minutes from time after some great work from Kerr saw her square it across the box, but Ingle’s first time touch was too heavy and the ball sailed over the bar.
United nearly grabbed a last-gasp equaliser in the 95th minute when Berger fluffed her lines in a goalmouth scramble but, somehow, Chelsea managed to clear their line.
The defeat means Manchester United are yet to beat Chelsea in ten matches in all competitions, losing nine and drawing one, and while their search for a first piece of silverware continues, they pushed the reigning champions, and now five-time FA Cup winners, Chelsea all the way.
Attention will now turn to the red-hot WSL title race between these sides. United are a point ahead of Chelsea at the top of the league but Hayes’ side have a game in hand and are in pole position for a fourth consecutive league title. Make no mistake though, whatever happens in the remainder of the season, the gap between Chelsea and the chasing pack is narrowing all the time. And the Red Devils are right at the top of that pack.