Chelsea won its third consecutive Women’s FA Cup in front of a record crowd at Wembley, triumphing 1-0 over Manchester United in the final thanks to a well-taken Sam Kerr goal in the 68th minute.
It is a pattern which has been repeated all season: Chelsea soaking up pressure, sitting back while its opponents create chances, before pouncing with a clinical incisiveness.
Manchester United, playing in its first ever major cup final, will rue its missed opportunities – a goal ruled out in the opening minute after Ella Toone was inches offside, several shots on target that didn’t quite have the power to sneak past Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger and a period of dominance in the first half which didn’t translate into goals.
But, ultimately, this was a day for Chelsea and Kerr who held on to win the FA Cup final in front of a record 77,390 fans at a sun-dappled Wembley.
“I think it’s the sign of a great team, we didn’t have our best game but we pushed through,” Kerr told the BBC afterwards. “Everyone stuck at it and we got the win.”
It was a historic match in so many ways – the first time a women’s FA Cup match had sold out at Wembley, the first time Manchester United had reached the women’s FA Cup final, a world record crowd for a women’s domestic match, and the first time the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was used in this competition.
VAR came into play almost immediately as Leah Galton found the back of the net after just 20 seconds following a sweeping Manchester United attack, but her effort was ruled out for offside.
United was appearing in its first major cup final.
Marc Atkins/Getty Images
United continued to dominate the early exchanges even as the game settled into a less frenetic rhythm, defying its status as the underdog.
Only a last-gasp save from Berger prevented Millie Turner from scoring on 30 minutes as the ball bobbled around the penalty box following a long-range free kick.
Twelve minutes later, it was United’s Mary Earps who prevented Lauren James scoring as she scooped the ball as it was heading towards the top corner of the goal, after sprinting across from the opposite goal post.
After half time, Manchester continued engineering several goalscoring opportunities but still could not find that final clinical edge.
Finally, Kerr put Chelsea ahead, prodding in Pernille Harder’s perfectly-weighted pass to stem all of United’s momentum, and she celebrated in style with a cartwheel and a backflip.
“A lot of people have been asking for it (the celebration),” Kerr told the BBC afterwards. “I text my friend and said back flip incoming today.”
There was still time for some late drama in the last seconds as United came within inches of equalizing when Berger lost control of the ball in the penalty box but Chelsea cleared and held on for victory.