First played in 1971, Southampton won the first three FA Cups but 26 years on, Arsenal are the record holders with 14 wins, the women’s FA Cup Final is more popular than ever. Over 35,000 fans bought a record amount of tickets for the Wembley match, Birmingham City Ladies versus Manchester City Women is just the start of what could be a special summer of women’s football.
All eyes were on the favourites Manchester City and their FIFA player of the year, American Carli Lloyd, as the 2017 Women’s FA cup final kicked off on Saturday 13th May at 17:15pm. Having joined Man City on loan in February, Lloyd has two goals for the club and was looking to add to that tally at Wembley. An Olympic gold medallist and World Cup winner, Lloyd scored twice for America in the Beijing Olympic 2008 final as well as a spectacular half-way line strike to clinch the World Cup 5-2 in 2015. The American was looking for more goals and another medal against Birmingham. Could the Midland’s club stop her and the blue side of Manchester?
Seven England internationals were in the Man City team for the match, they made a quick start with wide attacking play to try and outwit Birmingham’s back three, but it was the Midland’s side that forced the first corner and shot, a long-range effort from striker Freda Ayes which was saved comfortably. A good chance from a Man City corner was put wide by long-throw specialist Megan Campbell, then, just as Birmingham were putting some passes together, the light blues of Manchester took the lead. A fine header from defender and England player Lucy Bronze made it 1-0 and before Birmingham had a chance to respond Bronze, who was having a superb first half an hour, put an excellent cross into the box which saw a great scooped finish into the net by her fellow England team mate Izzy Christiansen. 2-0 Man City, they had Birmingham on the ropes and the 2017 FA Cup in their sights with only 25 minutes gone.
Lowly could have made it 3-0 with Birmingham struggling, but it was of course the best player in the world who grabbed another Man City goal in the 31st minute. Not to be out done by Bronze and Christiansen, Carli Lloyd headed in a third goal. There seemed to be no way back for Birmingham, keeping the score at three was a must for the Midland’s club which they just about managed. Half-time; Birmingham 0 – 3 Manchester City.
A shell-shocked Birmingham started the second half shakily. The light blues slick passing could easily have made it 4-0 and it took until the 61st minute for Birmingham to test Man City’s goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. She almost fumbled a long-range strike from Ellen White but held on. That hit did give the Midland’s side heart but they seemed caught between keeping the score respectable and simply just going for it. They had nothing to lose, 3-0 down, the latter in the final of any cup surely had to be the only option.
Go for it they did and they got their reward. A superb shot just inside the penalty box that curled into the bottom corner made it 3-1. That goal gave Birmingham hope and they broke away again minutes later only for the Man City’s defence to halt their progress. The Dark Blues hopes however was killed off seven minutes later, a sublime right footed shot from Jill Scott made it 4-1. She had surely put the game beyond doubt, with 10 minutes left on the clock, victory had to be Manchester Citys.
Dominating the remaining minutes of the match, the final whistle blew to celebrations from the Manchester City women’s team. Controlling the match from the start, Nick Cushing’s side lifted a much-deserved FA Cup with a superb clinical 4-1 win. It was a great team performance, with Kiera Walsh and Lucy Bronze the standout players, all bodes well for England’s chances in the European Championships with these two players in the side.
Five goals, a record attendance, great team play, if this is anything to go by then the Women’s European championships will be fantastic viewing this summer. This could just be the beginning of an excellent next few months for the women’s game.