Chelsea are the winners of the Women’s FA Cup, after a thoroughly dominant display at Wembley. Revenge was on the minds of the west London club, after Arsenal had beaten the reigning WSL champions 3-2 on the opening day of the season.
The build-up had centred upon the supposedly spiky relationship between the managers, with Jonas Eidevall and Emma Hayes reportedly having little time for one another. Thankfully, it was the football that did the talking in front of a bumper Wembley crowd that demonstrated an all-time high appetite for the women’s game. As recently as 2013, the Women’s FA Cup Final was being played out in front of 5,000 fans at the Keepmoat Stadium. Now, it is a traditional highlight of the Wembley calendar, with today’s game being watched by over 40,000 spectators. Proof, if needed, that women’s football is thriving in England.
The first half was perhaps the most one-sided 45 minutes you’re likely to see in a major final. However, Chelsea could only score a single goal for all their chances. Fran Kirby opened the scoring in the third minute, the third time a goal has arrived at that point in the FA Cup final. The Blues’ relentless pressing caused Arsenal problems in possession, and they struggled to get into a passing rhythm early on.
Kirby had a taste for goals, and continued to pepper Manuela Zinsberger’s goal. A through ball saw the England star force a good save from the Arsenal keeper, but she was adjudged offside. Zinsberger then went full stretch when Kirby tried to bend one in from the edge of the box. Melanie Leupolz’s wonderful control saw her tee up Kirby for yet another chance, which was blocked by Jennifer Beattie.
The finest chance of a Chelsea-dominated half would fall to Sam Kerr, who out-muscled Lotte Wubben-Moy before cannoning her shot off the crossbar. The Australia international should have had a penalty at one point, after appearing to be clearly brought down in the box. Arsenal would also lament the lack of VAR being employed in the game, when Beth Mead’s intelligent run was blocked by the arm of Erin Cuthbert in the box. It’s a shame that such a showpiece game was not afforded the same officiating technology that other such occasions enjoy.
If a 1-0 half time scoreline did Chelsea a disservice, they soon re-asserted their dominance after the break. Sam Kerr picked the ball up in a wide left position, before cutting inside brilliantly. The forward hit a precise finish between the legs of Wubben-Moy and past a stranded Zinsberger.
The incredible Australian would put the most sublime of exclamation marks on an utterly spotless Chelsea display with a quarter of an hour left on the clock. Carrying the ball into the right half-space, Kerr strode into the box and hit an unbelievable dinked chip over Zinsberger and into the net. The passionate celebrations of Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said it all, as her side had sealed the win in the most outstanding fashion.
A replay of the 2018 final, today’s game went much the same way as that game. The score was 3-1 on that occasion, and Chelsea went one better by keeping a deserved clean sheet and walking out 3-0 winners today. With Arsenal still top of the WSL, a point clear of Chelsea, today will not be the last time these two sides battle for major honours this term.