Ladies preview: WSL top two clash for cup final spot
news Sun 15 Apr 2018
It is very familiar opposition for Emma Hayes’ side in today’s big cup match at home…
The Blues are back in action after a two-week break for internationals which followed an intense fortnight featuring five matches. The most recent of those fixtures was in the WSL1 against Arsenal, which we drew 1-1 after Fran Kirby's opportunistic opener was cancelled out by Beth Mead. That result came off the back of a 3-1 win over Montpellier to book our spot in the semi-finals of the Women's Champions League for the first time; Kirby was also on target in that game, netting either side of a goal from Ramona Bachmann. We meet Wolfsburg in the last four and the first leg takes place next Sunday at Kingsmeadow.
City have also reached that stage of European competition for the second successive season and they saw off Linkopings in the quarter-finals, a tie which included a 5-3 win in the second leg away from home. Former Chelsea forward Marija Banusic was on target twice in that game for the Swedish side. However, they followed that up with a defeat in their most recent WSL1 fixture, falling 2-0 at home to Reading just a week after we had come back from two goals down against the Royals to earn a point. Our lead at the top of the table now stands at three points, although City have a game in hand.
ROUTE TO THE LAST FOUR
The Ladies have been in prolific cup form on the way to booking our place in this season's FA Cup semi-finals, scoring 19 times without reply. Ten of those goals came in our opening tie, in the fourth round, at London Bees, Erin Cuthbert bagging a hat-trick in our biggest win of the season. The Scot was also on target twice in our 6-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles at Kingsmeadow, and we secured a semi-final berth by beating Liverpool 3-0 in Prescot, the goals coming from Jonna Andersson, Katie Chapman and Maren Mjelde.
Manchester City have twice required extra-time in their FA Cup run, after seeing off Brighton & Hove Albion in their opening tie. Their trip to Birmingham City, the side they beat in the 2017 final, in the fifth round was level at 1-1 before Georgia Stanway and Claire Emslie struck in extra time. They were then seconds away from being eliminated by Sunderland in the quarter-finals, requiring a last-gasp equaliser from Jane Ross after twice trailing. The Scot struck again in the additional period, along with a goal from Ella Toone, to book their place in the last four.
PREVIOUS CUP MEETINGS
The two sides have met at the semi-final stage of domestic cup competitions on four previous occasions and we are locked at two wins apiece. However, history favours the Blues in this competition, for while City's victories have both come in the Continental Cup – in 2014 as well as earlier this season – we have won our two FA Cup semi-finals against them.
The first was in 2015, when Ji So-Yun drilled home a brilliant late winner from the edge of the box at Adams Park to send us into the final at Wembley Stadium, when we went on to lift our first major trophy.
Then, a year later, the South Korean's sublime free-kick drew us level at Wheatsheaf Park after Ross had opened the scoring, sending the tie into extra-time. With penalties looming, Kirby held her nerve to net a last-minute winner to send the Blues back to the final.
This will be the fourth meeting between Chelsea and Manchester City in 2018. Our opponents hold the edge in terms of victories thanks to the aforementioned Continental Tyres Cup triumph, but the two WSL1 matches finished all square and the Blues will feel we should have won both of them. Having had the better of the play in the 0-0 draw at Kingsmeadow, we then took a 2-0 lead at the Academy Stadium in late February courtesy of goals from Millie Bright and Ji, but City netted twice in the second half to earn a point.
Extra-time and then penalties will come into play if the score is level at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday.