A goal by the South Korean striker Ji So-Yun, dubbed “The Korean Messi” and the PFA Women’s Player of the Year, won the FA Cup to give the Chelsea Ladies their first major trophy in front of a record 30,710 crowd on what was the first occasion the final had been played at Wembley.
Ji’s winner, bundled unceremoniously over the line in the 37th minute, was hardly in the Lionel Messi style. But that was no matter for Blues manager Emma Hayes: “She’s magical in possession, but she’s also a street fighter and she was determined to be a winner today – I was delighted for her.”
A first trophy for her team was also a delight for Hayes, who has been desperate to put the women’s side into the same trophy-winning bracket as Jose Mourinho’s men. “I don’t have to be ferried around in the golf cart as a manager without a trophy anymore,” she continued. “I can walk with pride from corridor to corridor. Chelsea is about winning, and now I can join that illustrious crew at the player’s dinner next year and not feel like a spare part.
“This team has been evolving for three years and one of our missions has been to integrate the girls into the whole club. Winning the FA Cup will certainly help in terms of a greater level of acceptance, and I believe that the quality we show on the pitch is deserving of being inside a top men’s club.”
The record crowd – over 6,000 higher then the previous best – justified the Football Association’s decision to bring the final to Wembley in what is the competition’s 45th season and whose venues for the final have in the past included Bedford, Dunstable and Waterlooville.
Next year’s final will also be staged at the national stadium, the FA have confirmed, and the Notts County manager, Rick Passmoor, said: “We’ll aim to be back. We’ve got to learn from this experience, taste the disappointment. We started well today, but we couldn’t make our possession count and the difference was their front three.
“But 18 months down the line [from the club’s formation] this has been a great occasion for everyone at the club and we’ll hopefully be back here in the future to bring the club some silverware.”
Passmoor’s side started promisingly enough, having most of the early possession, but Chelsea always looked more dangerous when breaking forward.
The Blues wide players Gemma Davison and Eniola Aluko both made threatening runs to the byline, but their deliveries into the penalty area were poor.
Aluko almost opened the scoring on the half-hour, however, the striker racing on to Davison’s through-ball and drifting past the goalkeeper Carly Telford before sending her shot into the side netting from a tight angle.
Five minutes later Aluko forced Telford into the first save of the match, the keeper punching clear the forward’s 15-yard shot, then within seconds Davison shot wide from the simplest of ‑chances from Aluko’s low cross.
The Lady Magpies defence was now being ripped apart by Player of the match Aluko and the opening goal, scored from just a couple of yards by Ji [left], almost inevitably followed a weaving run by Aluko.
County failed to produce a shot at goal until the Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott, a loser with the Canucks against England in last month’s World Cup quarter-final in Vancouver and one of 10 starters yesterday - seven of them English – who figured at the finals, had a 20-yard effort deflected wide in the 61st minute.
But from the resulting corner, floated in by the left-back Alex Greenwood, midfielder Leanne Crichton’s header had to be cleared off the line by Davison.
As Chelsea quickly regained the initiative, Aluko drove in a 20-yard shot that the diving Telford pushed wide and then the central defender Gilly Flaherty scooped a six-yard shot over the bar from another opening created by Aluko.
In the closing stages both Aluko and Ji were substituted as Hayes settled for a 1-0 scoreline that Notts rarely looked like altering.
Chelsea: (4-3-3) Lindahl; Blundell, Fahey, Flaherty, Rafferty; Chapman, Spence, Bright; Davison, Ji (Coombs, 90), Aluko (Borges, 81).
Notts County: (4-3-3) Telford; Walton, Bassett, Turner, Greenwood; Scott, Buet (Whelan, 76), Crichton (O’Sullivan, 83); Clarke, Williams (Susi, 56), White.
Referee: A Fearn
Player of the match: Eniola AlukoReuse content