Chelsea FC Women are through the Continental Tyres League Cup final after beating Manchester United 3-1 at Kingsmeadow this evening.
Goals from Pernille Harder, Jessie Fleming and Jess Carter ensured we reached the final as Emma Hayes’ side look to retain the trophy for the third consecutive year.
Hayes made three changes to the team who beat Aston Villa 3-1 in the Vitality Women’s FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, with Sophie Ingle, Niamh Charles and Erin Cuthbert all returning to the starting 11.
Youngsters Aimee Claypole and Emma Thomas featured on the bench for the second game running, after coming on to make their senior debuts against Villa on Saturday. Sam Kerr also featured in the squad after returning from international duty with Australia in the Asia Cup, and was brought on by Hayes with 20 minutes left of the game.
In an exciting first half, both teams had plenty of chances to go ahead, however it was the Blues who opened the scoring after 26 minutes.
United had an early chance of their own when Martha Thomas found herself free in the box after a looping cross, but her effort was straight into the hands of Zecira Musovic.
Shortly after, the United No.9 struck on the half volley, however Millie Bright did well to deflect the shot out for a corner, which Musovic dealt with comfortably.
In the end-to-end half, both sides had opportunities to take the lead. Harder linked up well with Charles, who flicked on for our No.23 to let fly from the edge of the box, but her effort was a whisker too high of Sophie Baggaley’s goal.
The Blues took the lead after a fantastic bit of skill from Harder. Guro Reiten looped a ball over the top and Harder twisted and turned her way past Aoife Mannion before rounding Baggaley to slot the ball into the open net.
We got our second goal moments later when Charles drilled in a dangerous ball across goal and Reiten’s original effort was blocked but Fleming was there to head in the rebound.
Two minutes later, United pulled one back when former Blue Jackie Groenen threaded the ball into the path of Vilde Boe Risa who curled a powerful strike past Musovic.
We extended our lead in the 39th minute when Reiten squared a perfect ball across the face of goal, allowing Carter to slide in and convert from close range to make it three.
The Blues started the second half like we finished the first, on the front foot. A deep cross whipped in from the left-hand side met Harder, whose effort was saved with the legs of Baggaley, however the Dane was deemed to be offside anyway.
We dominated second-half proceedings as we edged closer to the final of the Conti Cup, with United rarely testing Musovic in the Chelsea goal.
It was fairly comfortable for the Blues after the interval, despite United posing a threat on the break, as our defence dealt with the pressures well and kept Marc Skinner’s side at bay.
Kerr was brought on with 20 minutes remaining and also got on the scoresheet upon her return, the visitors failing to clear after Reiten whipped in a dangerous cross. The United goalkeeper managed to scoop the ball from the feet of Kerr before she was able to strike from inside the box.
Just minutes after her first initial chance, Reiten looped in a sensational ball but Kerr just couldn’t stretch far enough at the back post to make it four for the Blues.
United’s Baggaley was shown a straight red card with 13 minutes to go when Kerr was through on goal, the goalkeeper rushing out of her area and colliding with our No.20.
Meanwhile, Lauren James also introduced for the final five minutes against her former club and almost got a goal immediately after coming on, however quick defending meant our No.14’s strike was well blocked.
The final of the Conti Cup takes place on Saturday 5 March at Plough Lane. The Blues will find out our opponents tomorrow evening as Manchester City host Tottenham Hotspur in the other semi-final.
It is now yet another quick turnaround for Hayes’ side as we return to league action this weekend, hosting Manchester City at Kingsmeadow on Sunday. The Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixture kicks of at 12:30pm and will be broadcast live on BBC Two.
Chelsea 4-1-3-2: Musovic, Andersson (Spence 85), Nouwen, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Charles, Reiten (Abdullina 89), Cuthbert, Fleming (Kerr 68), Harder (James 85)Unused substitutes: Berger, Kirby, Claypole, ThompsonScorers: Harder 26, Fleming 30, Carter 39Yellow cards: Charles 86Manchester United 4-4-2: Baggaley, Mannion, Thorisdottir, Russo (Earps 79) Galton, Blundell, Groenen (Fuso 66), Batlle, Boe Risa, Zelem, Thomas (Bruun 66),Unused substitutes: Harris, Caldwell, Hanson, Smith, JonesScorers: Boe Risa 32Red cards: Baggaley 77Referee: Paul HowardAttendance: 1,548