Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United: Emma Hayes’ side win THIRD consecutive FA Cup thanks to Sam Kerr

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In a competition often classed as unpredictable, perhaps this was the most inevitable outcome.

Chelsea have not had their best season by any stretch but their experience and ability to produce match-winning moments has carried them through. So when Sam Kerr got on the end of Pernille Harder’s cross to win their third-straight FA Cup and break Manchester United hearts, nobody was surprised.

Winning is what Chelsea and Emma Hayes do best. This was a harsh lesson for United, who could have been three or four-nil ahead at half-time. Those wasted chances proved crucial. Kerr, more often than not, only needs one. That is the difference between these two teams.

That it was two of Chelsea’s most expensive players, Kerr and Harder, that won them this trophy, is significant. The Blues have consistently invested in this team and are getting their rewards.

There was a sense of irony that Avram Glazer, one of United’s co-owners, was sitting in the stands at Wembley for what was the biggest moment in the club’s short history.

The women’s team was reluctantly re-formed in 2018 after much pressure but have been playing catch-up for the last five years. Marc Skinner has done a fantastic job in getting United to where they are – an FA Cup final and probable Champions League qualification. But you can only get so far on a shoe-string budget.

The Glazers have not invested anywhere near enough into this team – not enough to push Chelsea off their pedestal.

That Hayes could bring a five-time Champions League winner off the bench in Kadeisha Buchanan to help them see out the game, spoke volumes.

Wembley is almost a second home for Chelsea whereas it was United’s first visit here for what was the first ever sold-out Cup final. The crowd of 77,390 meant it was a world record for a domestic game, but perhaps this is the last time we will mention the significance of an attendance figure in the women’s game. This will and has to be the norm from now on.

Chelsea may have been favourites but it was United who started stronger. They thought they had scored the fastest FA Cup final goal in history when Leah Galton struck after just 20 seconds, but Ella Toone had strayed offside in the build-up and the assistant referee’s flag quickly ended their celebrations.

It was United who were asking all the questions in the first half. Millie Turner nearly found a way through when the ball dropped at her feet from a set-piece, but her deflected effort was clawed away by Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger.

The Blues looked to disrupt United’s momentum with regular stoppages for injuries. First it was Melanie Leupolz who went down, then it was Magdalena Eriksson, before Berger followed.

Hayes criticised Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger for her ‘tactical time-outs’ when they beat Chelsea in the League Cup final in March. Pot, kettle, black.

United should have taken the lead just before half-time when Alessia Russo’s deflected cross found Galton, but the forward could only stab the ball over from two-yards out.

Mary Earps had to be alert at the other end to keep out a looping header from Lauren James, which was Chelsea’s only real chance of the first half. United had a penalty shout just before half-time when Niamh Charles fouled Nikita Parris on the edge of the box. Parris thought the contact came inside but replays seemed to indicate referee Emily Heaslip had made the right decision.

It was a matter of when, not if, Hayes would turn to Harder and the Chelsea boss gave it until the 57th minute before she introduced the Danish forward from the bench.

This may be Harder’s last Cup final for Chelsea, with the forward out of contract at the end of the season and thought to be on the verge of a move to Bayern Munich. It was fitting, then, that she created the winning moment eleven minutes after coming on.

Her pace and power saw her latch onto Guro Reiten’s pass before crossing for Kerr to bury at the back-post. It was the striker’s eighth goal in eight games against United. She has now scored in six consecutive Cup finals for Chelsea.

United had no response. There was very nearly late drama when Berger dropped the ball at the feet of Galton, but the goalkeeper made a fantastic reaction stop before Buchanan cleared. Hayes’ side are the masters in closing out games and they were not about to slip up here.

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