Here Come The Girls – Chelsea win first Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley

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Katie_Chapman_(cropped)
Katie Chapman, captain of Chelsea Ladies, led her team to a victory

Chelsea Ladies became the first women’s team to win the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium as they beat Notts County 1-0. With over 30,000 fans watching, it was the biggest crowd ever for a domestic women’s game in the UK and was double the attendance of the 2014 final which had been held at stadium:mk.

Following their impressive performance at the World Cup finals in Canada which captured the hearts of the general public, it was no surprise that such a large crowd turned out to see several of England’s star Lionesses in action.

For much of the first half, it appeared that the sense of occasion was affecting the players. The game started as a very cagey affair with few chances of note as both teams were guilty of misplaced passes and lack of composure in the final third. Both teams defended resolutely and were unwilling to surrender any opportunities to the other.

However the game burst into life on the half hour mark as Chelsea striker and England international Eniola Aluko rose to the occasion and began to cause Notts County all manner of problems. Aluko produced the first clear cut chance of the game as she intercepted a loose pass to put herself one on one with Carly Telford. The goalkeeper was quick off her line but was caught in no man’s land as Aluko skipped past her. However the Chelsea striker’s touch was too heavy and she could only fire into the side netting from a tight angle.

That opportunity signalled Chelsea’s increasing dominance in the game and better opportunities soon followed. Once again, Aluko was the driving force of the Chelsea attack. Racing down the left wing on another mazy run, Aluko skilfully turned Sophie Walton and whipped a teasing cross into the Notts County area. The cross reached the outstretched boot of Gemma Davison and a goal seemed inevitable. However Davison was unable to direct her effort with the finesse required and the ball sailed wide, providing a huge let off for Notts County.

Chelsea continued to pile on the pressure and it was no surprise when they took the lead a minute later. Millie Bright gained possession in the centre of the pitch and played the ball to the lively Aluko. The Chelsea striker set off on another direct run towards the Notts County defence. Aluko played in Ji So Yun with a clever through ball and the South Korean striker was able to scramble the ball home with an untidy finish. Although the goal was not pretty, the goal had huge historical significance as Ji So Yun went down in the record books as the first female player to score a goal in a women’s FA Cup final held at Wembley.

Chelsea had their well deserved lead and Notts County headed into the half time interval with serious questions to ask of themselves to find a response in the second half.

After the sharp increase in intensity of play at the end of the first half, the game seemed to lull back into a war of attrition at the beginning of the second half. Chelsea had more possession but were far less cavalier going forward than they had been when they were searching for their opening goal. Even so, Notts County were unable to generate any real momentum and threaten an equaliser in these early stages.

However on the 60 minute mark, Notts County finally stirred into life and began to ask questions of Chelsea. Alex Greenwood’s corner was headed away to the edge of the box by the Chelsea defence but only as far as Desiree Scott. The Notts County player struck a sweet half volley from the edge of the box that seemed destined to hit the back of the net. A deflection from the head of a Chelsea defender decisively altered the ball’s trajectory and sent it just wide of the right post of a relieved Hedvig Lindahl.

From the resulting corner, Notts County went agonisingly close to getting their precious equaliser. Greenwood floated a perfect corner into the Chelsea box where Notts County’s Leanne Crichton rose highest. Her header seemed to have the Chelsea goalkeeper beaten but Davison was in the right place at the right time and was able to clear the effort off the line.

This brief spell of pressure seemed to jolt Chelsea from the trance they had fallen into which had spurred Notts County to threaten. In response, Chelsea took a leaf out of the tactical manual of their male counterparts and began to suffocate the game as their midfield neutralised any Notts County attacks.

Nevertheless, it was Chelsea who went closest to scoring the next goal of the game. A flicked through ball from Aluko fell to Chelsea defender Gilly Flaherty, only three yards out from the Notts County goal. However with the goal gaping, Flaherty could only fire over the crossbar.

That assist would be Aluko’s last contribution of the game as the Woman of the Match was substituted to the relief of the Notts County defence she had terrorised all day. It was clear that Chelsea were now content to consolidate their lead and see out the remainder of the game. Perhaps the memory of the 2012 final penalties loss to Birmingham had come to mind, explaining their cautious finish to the game.

A few minutes later, the final whistle was blown and the Chelsea bench erupted in jubilation to celebrate their first ever FA Cup victory. The Notts County players looked on dejectedly but would probably admit they had not produced a performance to their full potential on this momentous occasion.

The proud Chelsea captain Katie Chapman led her victorious team up the famous Wembley steps as the first woman to do so. Holding the trophy aloft to the strains of “Blue Is The Colour” like her male counterpart John Terry had done so many times in the past, the sight of Chapman and her Chelsea team celebrating clearly showed that women’s football has found its home in Wembley and is here to stay.

Image: joshjdss via Wikimedia Commons

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