Birmingham City 2-2 Chelsea (Birmingham win 3-2 on penalties)
The FA Women’s Cup
12.15pm, Saturday 26 May 2012
Ashton Gate, Bristol City FC
Winning clubs will receive £5000 from The FA prize fund
Birmingham City won The FA Women’s Cup for the first-ever time by beating Chelsea in The Final after a penalty shoot-out.
The Blues twice had to come from behind to etch their names on the trophy in a dramatic game at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate.
Helen Lander put Chelsea ahead in the 70th minute courtesy of a neat turn and finish and it looked for a long time that this solitary goal would be enough for glory, but Rachel Williams equalised in the 91st minute after Chelsea failed to clear a Karen Carney corner.
The Londoners retook the lead in the first half of extra time through substitute Kate Longhurst, but the Blues bounced back once more when Carney converted a centrally-placed free-kick on the edge of the box. This goal forced the shoot-out in which they would eventually taste success.
Williams saw her kick saved by Carly Telford but Rachel Unitt, Jodie Taylor and Carney all converted for the Midlanders. Chelsea’s Drew Spence saw her penalty saved by Rebecca Spencer, Claire Rafferty hooked her penalty wide and Gemma Bonner blazed hers over the bar to hand The Cup to Birmingham.
On a sunny but windy day, both teams attempted to make the most of the immaculate playing surface by getting the ball down and building attacks through midfield, but it was Birmingham who had the brighter openings early on.
Carney whipped in an eighth-minute cross from the right and left winger Kerys Harrop ghosted into the area to meet it, but her far post header was well saved by Telford. Then Taylor dragged a shot wide of the target from just outside the box as the Blues sought an early advantage.
Chelsea players appealed for a penalty midway through the first half after Laura Bassett felled England team-mate Dunia Susi in the area, but referee Natalie Walker dismissed the claims.
Both sides had good chances to break the deadlock within two minutes of each other. First, Carney met Williams’ cross from just a few yards out but somehow contrived to head the ball wide. Lander then brought the best out of Spencer with a firm, low shot that the ‘keeper did well to turn behind.
Taylor had the ball in the back of the net in the 34th minute after meeting Williams’ knock down but she was adjudged to have been in an offside position and the goal was chalked off.
Lander had Chelsea’s best opportunity of the first half when, with the interval looming, she latched onto a through ball down the centre and struck her shot against the upright with just Spencer to beat.
Chelsea grew into the game as the first half progressed and they came out brightly after the break, Katie Sherwood blazing the ball over from close range after Birmingham failed to clear Rafferty’s corner.
Susi then hit an angled drive into the side netting before Lander made the Chelsea pressure tell with a well taken opening goal.
She collected the ball 20 yards from goal, neatly turned away from Bassett and burst into the box before smashing the ball past Spencer.
It was a goal that had been coming and Birmingham searched for an immediate response as Carney rifled substitute Eniola Aluko’s lay-off goalwards only to see Telford get down smartly to save with her legs.
The game became stretched as full time approached, with the Midlanders looking for the equaliser, but they were initially unable to fashion many clear cut chances that would have rescued their Cup dream. Aluko attempted to lift the ball over Telford from ten yards out but it was too high and landed on the roof of the net.
But just as the clock ticked into added time, Williams side-footed home a dramatic equaliser. Rafferty was on-hand to clear Taylor’s close range flick off the line from Carney’s corner, but the subsequent corner wasn’t dealt with properly and Williams drilled the loose ball into the back of the net to force extra-time.
Spencer had to be alert to keep out Longhurst’s cross-cum-shot in just the fourth minute of the extra 30 and Birmingham responded with Unitt playing in Taylor, but her lob dropped just over the bar.
Longhurst, though, was more accurate with her next piece of play and the substitute fired Chelsea back into the lead in the 101st minute after pouncing on a mistake in the Birmingham backline. She collected Chelsea Weston’s loose header on the right hand side of the box and cracked an angled drive into the far corner.
Sherwood cleared Aluko’s cross virtually on the goalline in the 107th minute, but Carney struck five minutes later to draw the Blues level for a second time. After she was fouled by Bonner on the edge of the box, Carney dusted herself down and blasted the free-kick home to force the penalty shoot-out.
And when Bonner was off-target with her kick, it sent the Birmingham fans and players into raptures.
22 Rebecca Spencer, 2 Chelsea Weston, 3 Kerys Harrop (9 Eniola Aluko, 63), 6 Laura Bassett (C), 8 Rachel Williams, 10 Karen Carney, 11 Jo Potter, 13 Jade Moore, 14 Jodie Taylor, 17 Rachel Unitt, 19 Emily Westwood
Substitutes not used 1 Marie Hourihan, 7 Isobel Christiansen, 20 Marie Ballard, 21 Cristina Torkildsen
Manager David Parker
1 Carly Telford (C), 2 Lara Fay (3 Sophie Perry, 70), 5 Gemma Bonner, 6 Katie Sherwood, 8 Dani Buet, 10 Helen Lander (20 Kate Longhurst, 76), 11 Claire Rafferty, 15 Helen Bleazard, 16 Sophie Ingle, 17 Dunia Susi, 19 Laura Coombs (4 Drew Spence, 57)
Substitutes not used 18 Sarah Quantrill, 7 Ashlee Hincks
Manager Matt Beard
Referee Natalie Walker