Sport Writer Jake Bradshaw reviews the FA Cup Quarter-Finals and looks forward to the Semis coming up at WembleyWritten by Guest Author on 24th March 2018
From the Stands: Manchester City Win Women’s FA Cup Final
Sport online editor Nancy Frostick rounds-up the action from the Women's FA Cup Final after watching Manchester City emerge victorious at Wembley
It was Izzy Christiansen who came out on top in the clash of the UoB women’s footballing titans this weekend as Manchester City romped to a 4-1 victory over Aoife Mannion’s Birmingham City in front of a record 35,271 crowd at Wembley. The Manchester City side proved too hot to handle for Birmingham, as they were sunk by four quality goals from Christiansen, Lucy Bronze, Carli Lloyd and Jill Scott. Charlie Wellings gave the Blues a lifeline with a great strike in the second half, however Birmingham were unlucky to be overcome by their opponents in such emphatic fashion. It was Manchester’s first FA Cup victory and ensured they completed a domestic treble of WSL, Continental Cup and FA Cup titles in the last twelve months.
From kick off, Manchester City looked the more alert of the two sides, pressing hard and limiting Birmingham to their own half – something that would continue for the duration of the match. The tactic certainly worked in Manchester’s favour as a large portion of Birmingham’s early passes went astray, severely limiting their chances to get the ball into the feet of Ellen White and Freda Ayisi. Although the Brum defence of Kerys Harrop, Mannion and Meaghan Sargeant put in a strong performance to limit the WSL 1 champions’ progress from open play, they fell victim to a curling free kick that Bronze met with a diving header at the near post to open the scoring on 17 minutes.
“Despite Birmingham’s best attempts to make the most of their possession and play out of the back, they struggled to make it pay in the middle of the park
It wasn’t long before the team in sky blue found another, however, as a burst down the right from Bronze and a whipped cross into the box was met by Christiansen arriving late and running onto it to half-volley it home. Despite Birmingham’s best attempts to make the most of their possession and play out of the back, they struggled to make it pay in the middle of the park, with Andrine Hegerberg putting in an impressive display but in need of more support if she was going to crack Keira Walsh and Jill Scott. With plenty of families in the crowd, a Mexican wave soon made its way around the stadium to keep the volume and enthusiasm going for what had been a gripping opening portion of the match.
An interesting battle opened up between Mannion and Lloyd as the FIFA Best Women’s Player continued to harry and press the defence under pressure. Mannion had largely come out the winner and kept the American quiet until the 31st minute when Birmingham conceded their third as Lloyd met a cross from a corner with a trademark bullet header at the back post. With by far the celebration of the day with a knee-slide over at the corner flag, Lloyd ensured Manchester City went into the dressing room at half time the happier of the two teams.
“Marc Skinner’s decision to substitute Ayisi for Charlie Wellings was rewarded as the 18 year-old took the game to the Manchester defence with driving runs
All was not lost for Birmingham as they opened the second half with some much more positive play, finally able to make some inroads towards City ‘keeper Karen Bardsley’s box. Marc Skinner’s decision to substitute Ayisi for Charlie Wellings was rewarded as the 18 year-old took the game to the Manchester defence with driving runs and also found a goal for the 2012 winners. Wellings latched on to Ellie Brazil’s pass to rifle an angled left-footed shot past Bardsley. The goal spurred the Blues into life and for a while it looked as if they might find a second – first from an aerial clash between Ellen White and the City ‘keeper before the England striker put another great chance over the bar.
Experienced winners Manchester put the game to bed on 80 minutes to end any hopes of a Birmingham resurgence as Jill Scott took Toni Duggan’s pass well to finish with composure into the top left hand corner of Ann-Katrin Berger’s goal. Credit where it is due to Scott for staying on her feet and taking the shot when she could as easily have gone down for a penalty – Birmingham captain Harrop had clipped the England international’s heel on the way through on goal. All that Manchester had to do was see the game out, which they duly did despite a few last moments of pressure from their opponents.
“The Blues should also be proud that nine of their starting line-up had progressed through their academy, and as a relatively young side there will be plenty more to come from a promising squad
Although the score-line somewhat flattered Nick Cushing’s Manchester City, the winners put in a classy and solid performance that highlighted the gap between the two sides. Manchester found Birmingham’s weaknesses and ruthlessly exploited them – reinforcing their position as the team to beat in English women’s domestic football. Birmingham can take their progression to the final as a positive, having conquered the previous two winners of the competition, Chelsea and Arsenal, on their way to Wembley. The Blues should also be proud that nine of their starting line-up had progressed through their academy, and as a relatively young side there will be plenty more to come from a promising squad. Manchester captain Steph Houghton’s post-match interview revealed the importance of the trophy to a squad determined to win it all – with one more accolade ticked off the list it leaves the Champions League as an even clearer goal for the future.