Lauren Coffman recaps the Continental Cup semi-finals, where the two Manchester teams were knocked out by clubs from the capital
This week’s Continental Cup semi-finals saw Arsenal Women and Chelsea Women emerge victorious over Manchester City and Manchester United respectively to book their places in this year’s Continental Cup Final, set to take place later this month.
With the four semi-finalists currently making up the FA Women’s Super League’s top four, the stakes were certainly high, and it was made all the more exciting by the prospect of a first-time finalist. Since the women’s league cup was reformed eight seasons ago only Arsenal and Manchester City have won the competition, and after drawing each other in this year’s semi-finals it put us on course to see the winner of the other semi-final, either Chelsea or Manchester United, make the final for the first time.
In what was a hotly contested battle between two women’s football heavyweights, Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal side came out on top in their semi-final to spoil the party for Nick Cushing on his penultimate match in charge of Manchester City, after announcing his imminent departure for MLS club NYCFC last month.
Arsenal took the lead early on, after Ballon D’or finalist Vivienne Miedema rounded two defenders to drill a low ball into the back of the net in just the 6th minute. After dominating play for much of the first half the Gunners got their second on the stroke of half time, courtesy of a rare mistake from Man City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, a Danielle Van De Donk shot from the edge of the box slipping through her fingers and into the back of the net.
Arsenal looked in cruise control going into the second half, but City came out fighting and before long were rewarded with a penalty, following a foul on Lauren Hemp. Though goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger pulled off a superb save to deny Ellen White from the spot the Gunners completely switched off as City took the resulting corner, allowing Gemma Bonner to head home and pull one back for her side.
A tense last half hour saw chances fall to both sides, but some disciplined and dogged defending from Arsenal meant they were able to see out the game to reach the Continental Cup final for the third year running and knock holders Manchester City out.
Over at Leigh Sports Village in the other semi-final, both Manchester United and Chelsea saw plenty of the ball throughout the first half. Both sides had their fair share of chances to take the lead but some expert goalkeeping meant it was goalless at the break.
The second half began much like the first, and it was clear a moment of quality would be needed to break the deadlock. That moment came in the 72nd minute as Erin Cuthbert sent a lofted ball into the path of Maren Mjelde who was able to blast it past Mary Earps from a very tight angle to give Chelsea the lead.
United kept pushing for the equaliser until the final whistle, but despite teenager Lauren James’ best efforts up front, they were unable to find that all-important goal. Ultimately Mjelde’s strike was enough to book Chelsea a place in their first ever Continental Cup final, to face off against five-time winners Arsenal.
The 2020 Continental Cup Final will take place on Saturday 29th February at the City Ground, home to Nottingham Forest, and will kick-off at 5:30pm.