Man United 0 Chelsea 1
The taut first half was no fitting antecedent to the bruising second, and the slaloming run from Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert, at her snake-hipped best, that helped seal the first League Cup final in Chelsea Women history. In a blur of shoulder-drops and stepovers, she swerved through a pack of red, clipping the ball to Maren Mjelde to guide the ball into the top left-hand corner at the back post.
That was Chelsea’s breakthrough, in a second half where the ball spent its life jolting from end to end like a child in the middle of an acrimonious divorce, and the Chelsea manager Emma Hayes2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app will know that it could have easily been a different story had United been clinical when it mattered most. Abbie McManus, now an injury doubt following her tackle on Guru Reiten, will rue heading wide from a Katie Zelem corner, and in that final 10 minutes where Lauren James and Hannah Ross were so dangerous from wide, Chelsea were left holding their breath.
Hannah Blundell was their hero of the hour when she tracked Jackie Groenen’s ball into the feet of James, biding her time to deny James a one-on-one with goalkeeper Carly Telford. James had earlier ballooned an inviting Groenen delivery over from close range but more frustrating for Casey Stoney was the belief that United should have had a penalty when Jess Sigsworth was felled inside the area by Millie Bright. This competition represented United’s final hopes of silverware.
“It would have been very different if we’d have been given a blatant, obvious penalty,” lamented Stoney. “It teaches them [my players] that when they work hard, and they go out there and they perform, they deserve a better standard of refereeing. We have to do something, as a game, to improve that level. For me, that’s not a semi-final performance from a referee. Jess is through on goal, one on one. Why would she go down? That’s a game-changing moment and a potential goalscoring opportunity.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appHayes has been a vocal critic of this competition but this is the only domestic trophy she is yet to win in her seven-year Chelsea reign.
“Everybody knows we’ve stumbled at this stage,” she said. “When you change teams, you lose momentum somewhere because relationships have to re-form. Players, when they came in, came over to me and said: ‘I was awful tonight.’ We came through it in a very difficult place - I’m proud of the players for that.”
The first half was more akin to a staring contest, both teams willing the other to blink first. Chelsea were without Sam Kerr - that burgeoning partnership between her and Bethany England dismantled three games in due to their Ballon D’or nominee’s involvement in Australia’s Olympic qualifiers - and, crucially, Ji So-yun, their playmaker, for the same reason. United are doubtless a better team with their industrial winger Leah Galton, who was out with a knock.
The closest Chelsea came was Bright’s header, on 35 minutes, a low, dive to connect with Erin Cuthbert’s free-kick just as the game was beginning to open up. McManus, beaten for pace by Guru Reiten, conceded the foul but the United goalkeeper Mary Earps2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app swatted Bright’s header back into the area. England met the follow-up but uncharacteristically miscued her volley, much in the same vein as Cuthbert struck thin-air when gearing up to meet a loose ball inside the area after the break. England managed to sneak around the back but McManus’ interception ended in a low, midfield-splitting pass to James, who was thwarted by the flag.
For the most part, though, they lived that first half as equal levels of unthreatening, as was always going to be the case for two sides as well-organised as this, and so resolute in their pressing.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app“They’re so difficult to break down,” said Hayes of United. “They’re organised, efficient, aggressive.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIt became difficult to ignore the first-half sense of deja vu. One of United’s midfield three, or Chelsea’s Sophie Ingle or Bright - delete as appropriate - would intercept a miscued pass and the cycle would restart, like clockwork. But that barely mattered when Mjelde let rip from the right.
Man United: Earps; A. Turner, McManus (Harris 82), M. Turner, Smith; Ladd, Xelem, Groenen; Sigsworth, James, Arnott (Ross 73)
Subs not used: Mikalsen (g), Okvist, May
Chelsea XI:2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app Telford; Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Ingle, Spence (Murphy 90), Mjelde; Cuthbert, England, Reiten.
Subs not used: Berger (g), Carter, Cooper, Napier,
Bookings: Ingle, Eriksson
Referee: Elizabeth Simms