It is always with a buzz of excitement that I approach the environs of Wembley Stadium and today more so than ever. Today the Women’s FA Cup Final would be held at football’s bastion for the first time ever. Notts County and Chelsea were both competing to win the FA Cup for the first time and Chelsea were hoping to go one better than their defeat to Birmingham City in the final in 2012. It was the first time in the final for Notts County.
One of the pleasures of watching women’s football is that the crowd all mingle together quite happily and there is no segregation into separate areas of the ground, today was no different and we were sitting amongst both sets of fans with the Chelsea drummer to the left and the Notts County drummer to the right. Gradually the lower tier filled and soon the teams were on the pitch being introduced to Mark Sampson (England Coach) and Greg Dyke (FA Chairman). It was nice to see Mark Sampson greet Laura Bassett; the rapport between player and coach apparent.
Finally kick off – and Chelsea were very slow to get going, for the first twelve minutes the Lady Pies retained the ball and kept Chelsea on the back foot without really threatening at all. Eventually though the blues grew into the game and looked threatening every time they attacked. They looked solid in defence, and as they grew in confidence some of the swagger drained from the Lady Pies who showed lots of endeavour in the middle of the park but no real cutting edge in the final third. Ellen White was effectively marked out of the game and unable to make any impact.
The goal came on 37′ with a cross from Eni Aluko and despite Alex Greenwood’s best efforts and Carly Telford trying to get to the ball it was the simplest job for Ji So-Yun to stab home from just a few yards out.
Chelsea had at least two other chances when it seemed harder to miss than to score but miss they did, and the Lady Pies were unable to punish them, their best efforts coming around the 60 minute mark when a shot from Desiree Scott was deflected behind and the resultant corner was cleared off the line.
Chelsea held out for the historic win and were worthy winners on the day, however the real winner today was women’s football.
It was a real treat to listen to the young man sitting behind us who had brought his young daughter to her first ever football match: we heard him explaining how if she wanted to, when she was a little bigger she would be able to play football, because there are lots of girls teams now, and how happy he would be to take her to training and matches; to watch her play – quite made the heart sing.
How wonderful that these youngsters will grow up with the likes of Laura Bassett and Claire Rafferty as their role models.
We left to the strains of the Chelsea anthem: Blue is the colour, football is the game, We’re all together, and winning is our aim, So cheer us on through the sun and rain, ’cause Chelsea, Chelsea is our name – seemed appropriate!