Pep Guardiola’s men still have work to do, but Manchester City conquest of English women’s football is complete. This comprehensive victory over Birmingham City at Wembley ensured they hold all three domestic trophies and it will take a good team to prise them away.
Such is Manchester City’s supremacy manager Nick Cushing was able to omit a quartet of leading internationals and still brush aside a Birmingham team that finished fourth in last season’s Women’s Super League.
There was a goal for imported loanee superstar Carli Lloyd, World Player of the Year, to go with the brace she scored here when the United States won gold in the 2012 Olympics. There were goals for three of the XI’s seven current England internationals, PFA Player of the Year Lucy Bronze, Izzy Christiansen and Jill Scott. For Birmingham there was only the consolation of a fine strike by Charlie Wellings, and of being being watched by the biggest crowd yet to attend a final, 35,271.
The underdogs did not help themselves by refusing to recognise their status. Coach Marc Skinner’s selection was bold, too bold. Rather than pack the midfield he played an attacking trident. On Wembley’s open acres a back three was also a risk too far against a team with Manchester City’s attacking width.
The midlanders began brightly but the champions penned them back and soon broke through. Megan Campbell flighted in a free-kick which Bronze, with typical bravery, met first to glance past Ann-Katrin Berger.
Less than a quarter-hour later they were three-up and cruising. First Bronze, outstanding as usual at full-back (providing food for thought for England manager Mark Sampson, who prefers her in a central role), broke down the right and squared. Christiansen, arriving late, crisply drove the cross into the roof of the net. A corner was then worked back to Campbell whose deep, teasing cross was headed in at the far post by Lloyd.
There was no coming back for Birmingham, but to their credit they did not fold. Indeed, having kept Manchester City at bay until the hour mark they threatened themselves when Ellen White stretched Bardsley from 25 yards. Their resilience was rewarded when Ellie Brazil’s persistence enabled Wellings to lash home. But the three-goal margin was soon restored. Duggan, on as sub, found Scott who tricked by Kerys Harrop before thumping in.
“We had a plan, but they were really clinical,” said Skinner. He added: We’re disappointed but I’m proud of the team. It is a big moment for a young group which they will only learn from.”
Already holders of the WSL title and Continental Tyres (League) Cup Manchester City now have the full set having gone from the parks to the pinnacle in five short, heady years. Cushing, who resisted suggestions he offer Guardiola advice, said: “Sometimes you have to play it down but sometimes you have to be honest. We hold the domestic treble. I’m ecstatic.
“We’ve tried not to make excuses but it has been planes, trains and automobile recently, to put in that performance with that schedule is exceptional.”
There was a lot of pressure on us,” added Bronze, “but our quality showed through.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies