As the dust settles on another year of FA Cup football, it is Chelsea Ladies who have emerged as the victors and can claim bragging rights over their London rivals Arsenal. The final itself was a tense affair as both teams slugged it out under the blazing sun at Wembley but Chelsea had that extra bit of quality and managed to come out on top.
In front of a record crowd at Wembley, Emma Hayes put out an attacking side as Jonna Andersson came in at left wing back and Drew Spence came in to play in behind the usual front two of Bachmann and Kirby. Joe Montemurro set his side out interestingly as Arsenal lined up in a 4-1-2-3 formation. He instructed Jordan Nobbs and Beth Mead to stay as wide as possible to stretch the Blues when on the counter attack. The tactic worked for the majority of the first half as Arsenal relinquished control of the ball to Chelsea while keeping 8 or 9 players behind the ball before regaining possession and springing on to the counter utilising the pace of both of the wide forwards.
Chelsea found it a struggle to break Arsenal down during a tense first half. The only chance of note came from an ingenious bit of play from Ramona Bachmann who produced a sumptuous turn through the legs of an Arsenal defender before dragging her shot just wide of the far post.
The second half saw the game really come to life as only three minutes after the restart the deadlock had been broken. Ji controlled a loose ball before playing it to Bachmann, she manoeuvred past an oncoming Arsenal defender and the ball ricocheted in to Kirby’s feet, Bachmann had continued her run into the area and Kirby found her; Bachmann took a couple of touches before smashing the ball into the top corner to the delight of all those wearing Blue at Wembley.
The goal really increased Bachmann’s confidence as she took control of the final herself; just over 10 minutes later Bachmann found herself in the final third on the right hand side. She drove into the box with the Arsenal players scared to put a foot in and she unleashed a left footed effort that took a slight deflection before ending up in the net and making it 2-0.
Arsenal only had their first shot on target of the match in the 50th minute and were finding it difficult to create any clear chances. It took for Beth Mead to create something out of nothing. She was marooned on the by-line being tightly marked by Hannah Blundell, but Mead created space for herself by nutmegging Blundell before pulling the ball back for Vivianne Miedema to finish from close range.
With 15 minutes left, it looked as if Arsenal would come into the ascendancy but it wasn’t to be as Chelsea’s devastating attack again made the difference. The ball was worked over to Fran Kirby on the edge of the box and she clinically curled the ball into the net on her weaker left foot to take the tie away from Arsenal and give the FA Cup to Chelsea.
Chelsea’s 3-1 victory means they have now won the trophy for the second time in their history, beating Arsenal on both occasions. Furthermore, those two victories for Chelsea are the only times Arsenal have ever been defeated when they get to the final. As Katie Chapman jubilantly lifted the trophy, she became the most decorated man or woman in FA Cup history, lifting the trophy for the tenth time.