WOMEN'S CUP FINAL REPORT: CHELSEA 2 BIRMINGHAM CITY 2 (2-3 ON PENS)
Chelsea Ladies suffered penalty shoot-out heartache in their first FA Cup Final having lead in normal and extra time, only to concede late equalisers.
On a scorching hot day in Bristol, Birmingham began the brighter, creating a host of chances in the opening 20 minutes, with Karen Carney's cross finding the head of Kerys Harrop, forcing an excellent reaction save from Carly Telford in the Chelsea goal, while Carney herself came close, heading just wide from Karen Williams' cross.
Chelsea's best chances of the half fell to striker Helen Lander, and having netted a hat-trick against Everton in the Blues' previous fixture, Lander twice found herself in behind the Birmingham defence. With the first opportunity, from Laura Coombs' pass, Lander fired a low drive across goal, stinging the palms of Birmingham goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer. The second time, again finding herself in on goal, Lander's near-post effort bounced agonisingly off the post, while Coombs could only fire the follow-up straight at Spencer.
The breakthrough came on 70 minutes, and it proved third time lucky for Lander, again finding herself in behind the Birmingham defence, but this time the striker would not be denied, firing a fierce effort into the top corner to give the Blues the lead.
However Birmingham forced a late equaliser, after Rafferty's goal-line clearance forced a corner. After a dramatic scramble in the Chelsea penalty area, Rachel Williams pounced to level the tie in injury time and force an extra 30 minutes.
Chelsea re-took the lead in the first 15-minute period. Capitalising on confusion in the Birmingham defence, Kate Longhurst pounced on the loose ball, driving in and finding the bottom corner to give the Blues the lead for the second time.
City equalised in bizarre fashion in the second half of extra time. Awarded a free kick 20 yards out, the referee allowed the kick to be taken quickly and Karen Carney stroked into a virtually unguarded net to level the scores and take the match to penalties.
The Blues again took the lead in the shootout, with Katie Sherwood finding the net and Telford saving from Williams. However misses from Drew Spence, Claire Rafferty and Gemma Bonner saw Birmingham City win the FA Cup for the first time. It denied Chelsea a unique quadruple with the club having won the men's FA Cup plus the FA Youth Cup and the FA Girls' Youth Cup
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (C), Claire Rafferty, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle, Lara Fay (Sophie Perry 70), Helen Bleazard, Dani Buet, Katie Sherwood, Dunia Susi, Laura Coombs (Drew Spence 58), Helen Lander (Kate Longhurst 76).
Unused Subs: Sarah Quantrill, Ashlee Hincks.
By Daniel Clarke.