Chelsea Ladies won the first piece of silverware in their history today (Saturday) courtesy of a 1-0 victory against Notts County in the FA Women’s Cup final at Wembley.
In front of over 30,000 supporters at the national stadium, Ji So-Yun’s goal settled the showpiece final, just as it had done in the semi-final win against Manchester City.
Emma Hayes named an unchanged starting team from the previous weekend’s action in the WSL 1, with captain Katie Chapman joining Drew Spence and Millie Bright in midfield. Hedvig Lindahl began in goal protected by a back four of Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty and Claire Rafferty.
Ji, scorer of the only goal in the semi-final, led the line up front supported by Gemma Davison and Eni Aluko.
Notts County started the brighter of the two sides but chances were limited at both ends in the opening 20 minutes. The Blues were appealing for a penalty as Aluko’s header appeared to hit a hand in the box following a free-kick delivered by Ji, though referee Amy Fearn refused to answer their calls and waved play on.
Having settled in the contest, Chelsea’s threat continued to grow and Fahey came close as she diverted another Ji free-kick over the bar, before Aluko’s pace down the left flank saw her fashion some space for a centre. However, with only Ji supporting in the box, her cross was cut out and the danger cleared.
Aluko’s speed again caused problems for the Magpies’ backline moments later as the England striker’s influence on the game continued to grow. She accelerated on to a pass forward from the busy Davison (pictured above) and nicked the ball beyond stranded County goalkeeper Carly Telford however, with the angle narrowing, her effort rippled the side netting with the goal unguarded.
Yet the 28-year-old was intent on making the difference for her side and, after seeing a shot pushed away by Telford and then Davison fire inches wide of the far post following her dangerous inswinging cross from the left, Aluko was celebrating helping her side grab the opener.
She once again skipped away from a couple of defenders down the left, advancing into the box and finding Ji. The South Korean’s first touch was slightly heavy but she kept her composure to follow the ball into the goalmouth and turn it in from close range for her third goal of the Cup campaign (pictured below).
It was the final action of note in a half that had grown into an entertaining contest and left the second period finely poised.
Aluko had a great chance to extend the lead inside a minute of the restart, creeping into a dangerous position in the box but mistiming her connection to Davison’s teasing cross. Another quiet spell of few chances followed before County came close to levelling after an hour. Desiree Scott’s shot was deflected wide by a brave header from Flaherty, before Davison cleared Leanne Chrichton’s header off the line with Lindahl beaten.
Telford was forced into more action down the other end, getting down low to push Aluko’s low drive behind (pictured below), and then the former Chelsea goalkeeper did well to get her body behind Ji’s powerful effort from distance.
Flaherty, a five-time winner of the FA Women’s Cup coming into the game, came agonisingly close to making it 2-0 after 70 minutes. A deep corner from the right was turned back into the danger zone by Fahey and flicked towards goal instinctively by Aluko, yet Flaherty was unable to twist her body quickly enough to trouble Telford from a few yards out.
The Blues managed the game expertly in the final exchanges, keeping Notts County at bay and away from their goal as they secured a memorable first trophy in their history. The celebrations could begin!
Chelsea Hedvig Lindahl; Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Claire Rafferty; Millie Bright, Katie Chapman (c), Drew Spence; Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun (Laura Coombs 90), Eni Aluko (Ana Borges 81).
Unused subs Marie Hourihan, Jodie Brett, Marija Banusic.
Scorer Ji 37
Notts County Carly Telford, Alex Greenwood, Danielle Buet (Aileen Whelan 76), Jess Clarke, Rachel Williams (Susi Dunia 56), Ellen White, Desiree Scott, Sophie Walton, Amy Turner, Leanne Chrichton (Fiona O’Sullivan 83), Laura Bassett (c).
Unused subs Ashleigh Plumptree, Laura-Jayne O’Neill.
Referee Amy Fearn