Man Utd beat holders Chelsea for first time to reach Women’s FA Cup final

By Sports Desk April 14, 2024

Manchester United advanced to an FA Cup final against Tottenham after holding out for an historic 2-1 victory over holders Chelsea at Leigh Sports Village.

In a rematch of last year’s final that they lost 1-0, Marc Skinner’s United went in front in the first minute through a Lucia Garcia header before doubling the advantage midway through the first half when Rachel Williams headed home.

Former United player Lauren James pulled a goal back just prior to the break and the visitors did most of the attacking thereafter but were unable to force extra time, with Mary Earps making a superb save to thwart James and substitute Catarina Macario hitting the bar.

The result is a first victory for United over Chelsea since the team’s launch in 2018 – and they now have a chance to secure a maiden piece of major silverware when they return to Wembley on May 12 to face Spurs, who beat Leicester in the other semi-final earlier on Sunday.

Chelsea, meanwhile, saw a trophy bid end for the second successive game, having lost 1-0 to Arsenal in the League Cup final last time out.

They remain in the hunt for the Women’s Super League – currently topping a table in which United lie fourth – and the Champions League, with a semi-final first leg in Barcelona to come next Saturday, as they seek glory in their final few games before boss Emma Hayes departs to take charge of the United States.

United made a dream start as they grabbed the lead in the opening few seconds, Chelsea full-back Eve Perisset being punished for losing possession with Leah Galton claiming the ball on the left and delivering a cross to far post, where Garcia headed in.

And after unsuccessful attempts at the other end from James and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, the hosts then extended their advantage via another header teed up from the left, Ella Toone this time providing the delivery and veteran forward Williams, brought into the starting XI for Nikita Parris, nodding past Hannah Hampton.

Williams had the chance to make it 3-0 soon after but could not get her shot on target, before James fired into the side-netting.

Chelsea subsequently exerted further pressure as the interval drew near, and following a header from Mayra Ramirez going wide and Earps doing well to turn one from James around the post, the latter halved the deficit as she fired in from Niamh Charles’ cutback.

Earps – who was dropped to the bench for England’s win over the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, with Hampton playing in her place – then pulled off an even better save to keep out another James header six minutes into the second half.

As Chelsea continued to hunt a leveller, Rytting Kaneryd’s claims for a penalty were dismissed after she struck the ball against Katie Zelem, and Earps was in action again to deny Erin Cuthbert and James.

The verdict was no penalty again after a Williams collision with Charles, and Chelsea were then inches away from equalising as Macario’s curling corner connected with the bar.

Stoppage time at the end saw a Parris strike saved by Hampton and fellow substitute Aggie Beever-Jones shoot into the side-netting as Skinner’s team sealed a ground-breaking triumph.

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