A Manchester City side containing Alanna Kennedy and Hayley Raso launched a superb second half comeback, scoring three goals in 21 minutes to defeat Chelsea in the Conti Cup Final at Plough Lane in front of a record crowd for the competition of 8,424.
Manchester City’s triumph sealed their fourth win in the Continental Cup competition, and a first since 2019 when they defeated Arsenal on penalties at Bramall Lane.
SKY BLUES TAKE CONTI CUP
- All three Matildas – Chelsea’s Sam Kerr plus Manchester City’s Hayley Raso and Alanna Kennedy start the game.
- Sam Kerr put Chelsea in front after 34 minutes.
- Two second half strikes for Caroline Weir and one from Ellen White earn the first piece of silverware of the English domestic season.
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Three Matildas started the match with Chelsea originally naming Sam Kerr in behind the front two, a position which, realistically meant that she was free to roam across the front line at will. Her regular partner Fran Kirby was missing due to illness.
Alanna Kennedy was at centre-back for City with Hayley Raso given the opportunity to show her pace in creating along the left with Ellen White inside her and Lauren Hemp on the opposing flank.
The early arm wrestle saw both side’s respective left wing play come to the fore. City pressed as Hemp played in Stokes before the Lioness was smothered up by Niamh Charles.
Kerr was involved in a physical battle with Alex Greenwood from the off with the East Fremantle-born star outmuscling her opponent to deliver a ball into the mix which earned the first corner of the game.
Raso was up against Jonna Andersson on the right initially - an opponent that the Queenslander has bossed several times in the past. Whilst the Matilda was able to accelerate with the ball she was dangerous, but with Chelsea bossing the possession in the opening quarter, Raso was not able to influence the game as much as the City would have liked.
However, upon switching momentarily to the right, Raso pressured Jess Carter into an error which allowed the midfielder to break free and push on into the left side of the box before she was stopped by a combination of Ann-Katrin Berger and Millie Bright.
Kennedy was having a busy night in the centre of City’s defence, having to keep alive to the danger posed by Kerr’s balls in from the right along with the constant string pulling of Pernille Harder who was enjoying the freedom to roam across the attacking line.
City were targeting the left flank consistently with Stokes and Greenwood looking to take on Carter at every opportunity, which was their route into levelling the possession and territory.
From one such sortie with 24 minutes gone, City earned a free kick that Greenwood curled in 25 yards out from goal and ended with Hemp’s shot cannoning back off of the left hand post.
Noting the way City were approaching their attacks, Carter was beckoned over to the touchline by her boss Emma Hayes for some tactical advice. It worked.
Chelsea responded some style. Harder broke clean through along the left, but was repelled initially by dogged persistency from Kennedy.
Despite the Matilda’s superb efforts, the ball was played back deep into the box by Guro Reiten towards Kerr who jumped with Ellie Roebuck and Stokes but the City goalkeeper and defender got into a muddle which allowed Kerr to turn and shoot low to put Chelsea ahead.
Chelsea remained on the front foot for the remainder of the half but could not extend their advantage as rain arrived in South-West London.
The second half opened with City looking to try and cage the threat of Harder with Kennedy looking to stick close to the Dane.
Within four minutes of the re-start and Chelsea temporarily down to ten after Niamh Charles collided with a hoarding, City levelled.
Georgia Stanway drove along the right showing a clean pair of heels to the Chelsea defence and found Caroline Weir unmarked. The Scot dispatched a shot home with ease to level matters.
Chelsea had a chance to restore their lead shortly afterwards when Kerr advanced into the box and laid a pass which was intercepted by Kennedy.
The central defender’s good work was undone when ball landed sweetly for Charles who hit a powerful drive from which was met by a spectacular diving save from Roebuck.
City responded with Hemp creating along the left. Her low shot was repelled by Berger, but fell perfectly for arch six yard box predator Ellen White to turn the ball home at the near post.
City retained their focus on the left and when Chelsea coughed up possession, Stokes accelerated along the left to win the first of a succession of corners.
From one such attacking source, Greenwood lifted a flag-kick in towards Weir who had more space than she would expect in a major final, and was able to curl a stunning volley past Berger to make it 3-1.
Raso got free along the right shortly afterwards, cut inside and hit a low effort, but Berger held on.
Into the final ten minutes, Chelsea forced a succession of corners, but stout City defence allowed the Sky Blues to launch a series of counter attacks.
Despite a late flurry from Chelsea deep into stoppage time, City saw out the game comfortably.
CHELSEA (4-4-2): Berger, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Andersson, Reiten, Ji, Kerr, Carter, Harder, Charles. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), England, Eriksson, Mjelde, James, Spence, Abdullina.
Scorers: Kerr 34’.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-3-3): Roebuck, Bronze, Kennedy, Greenwood, Stokes, Raso, Walsh, Stanway, Weir, Raso, White, Hemp. Substitutes: Keating (GK), Coombs, Beckie, Angeldahl, Park, Shaw, Blakstad.
Scorers: Weir 49’, 70’. White 58’.
Referee: Lisa Benn.
Further Matildas can be found on their website.