Fran Kirby’s last minute goal kept Chelsea’s SSE Women’s FA Cup dream alive, earning them a place in the Wembley Final against London rivals Arsenal.
Fran Kirby was today announced as The SSE Women’s FA Cup Player of the Round following her game changing introduction off the bench, that brought Chelsea back from the brink in their semi-final match against Manchester City on Sunday April 17th.
Holder’s Chelsea faced their toughest test of the competition so far as high flying Manchester City arrived at Wheatsheaf Park, determined to reach the Wembley showcase for the first time in the club’s history.
Yet thanks to Kirby’s late strike, it was Chelsea who went through to The Final. Setting up a mouth-watering all-London tie against fierce rivals Arsenal.
In front of a raucous crowd, the match came to life mid-way through the second half when City’s Jane Ross tapped home from close range. It was the spark Chelsea needed and manager Emma Hayes brought on England’s Fran Kirby, a change that instantly made the difference as Kirby’s darting runs caused panic in the City defence. Gilly Flaherty was then brought down on the edge of the box and Ji So Yun expertly tucked away the resulting free kick to draw Chelsea level and send the game into extra-time.
Despite both sides going close in extra time, the match seemed destined for penalties – until Kirby popped up with a dramatic late winner. Put through on goal, Kirby slalomed past two City defenders and smashed the ball past Karen Bardsley, sending Chelsea into their second consecutive SSE Women’s FA Cup Final with almost the last kick of the game.
Kirby who was ineligible to play for Chelsea in last year’s Final is delighted to have helped the side reach Wembley for the second year running and is hopeful they can retain the famous trophy against London rivals Arsenal on May 14th.
“It’s great to win the award, it was an amazing end to match. City are obviously a top side so to beat them and reach the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley is really special and I’m sure we are good enough to lift the trophy again”
The award is a brand new initiative for The SSE Women’s FA Cup, rewarding exceptional performances in each round of the competition and recognising the talent in the women’s game.
The award for SSE Women’s FA Cup Player of the Round for the Quarter Finals went to Arsenal Goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
The Arsenal keeper spectacularly saved three spot kicks in the quarter final penalty shootout win over Notts County on Sunday 3 April.
In what was surely the tie of the round, Arsenal and last season’s Finalists Notts County produced a thrilling 2-2 draw, with both sides contributing to the pulsating match.
The shootout was a nervous affair but, on her birthday, and in a week in which van Veenendaal signed a new contract at Arsenal, there was surely only going to be one hero.
Van Veenendaal produced three brilliant saves to deny Rick Passmoor’s side and leave Katie McCabe to fire Arsenal into the SSE Women’s FA Cup semi-finals and a tie against fellow FA WSL 1 side Sunderland.
Van Veenendaal was delighted to have reached the semi-finals and feels Arsenal have the ability to go all the way.
She said: “I’m really pleased to win the award. Obviously penalties are always difficult so to make three saves was amazing.
“It was a strong team performance and I think it shows how focused we are on winning the SSE Women’s FA Cup this season.”
This year’s Final takes place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 14 May and thanks to The FA’s partnership with SSE, all children will be able to attend for free. Adult tickets are priced £15 and group bookings and charter standard discounts are also available.
Tickets for The Final are on sale now here or by calling 0844 826 2010.
You can read more about the SSE FA Women’s Cup here.
Report courtesy of SSE via Synergy