City blow Chelsea away in humbling 3-1 Conti Cup final defeat at Plough Lane
By Paul Lagan at Plough Lane
Chelsea 1 v Man City 3
Conti Cup Final
Reigning champions Chelsea crashed to a humbling Conti Cup final defeat at the hands of arch rivals Manchester City at Plough Lane this evening, losing 3-1 after going a goal up.
The Blues, were dealt a late blow before kick-off when star player Fran Kirby succumbed to an illness while live wire midfielder Jessie Fleming contracted Covid.
Add that to a subs bench that included long-term injured Maren Mjelde and Magda Eriksson, neither of who were ever going to come on, and the WSL champions were depleted to the point where if changes were needed, they were never going to work.
Sadly for them, changes were needed and they did not work.
Lauren James, still not fully match fit came on but couldn't affect serious change in fortune.
Even so this back four has played much of the season, yet looked like it was the first time they had played together.
While City showed clinical finishing at times, they were aided by less than competent defending.
Goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger had one of those games where she will want to forget.
City looked hungry, decisive, tough and aggressive. Chelsea failed to match in any of those compartments and the result was justified.
Aided with the strong wind behind them, Chelsea forced the early pressure. But a sloppy kick out from Berger from a needless Jess Carter back pass was almost Chelsea’s undoing on seven minutes. It was a sign that not all was right and it was a feature of the game that City exploited whenever possible.
Thankfully for the Blues, on this occasion Lauren Hemp’s attempted long-range shot was poor and the west Londoners scrambled the ball away.
However dominance of the ball by Chelsea is one thing, putting it in the back of the net is another and City looked comfortable repelling the attacks, mostly on the left, especially from Pernille Harder.
Chelsea rode their luck twice on 26 minutes when after a fine, controlled play by City, the ball fell to Hemp. But she rattled Berger’s right post with a firm left-footer.
The follow-up shot saw a penalty denied by the referee as Sophie Ingle clearly handled the ball.
But on 33 minutes a quick break by the WSL champions saw Sam Kerr twist and shoot from close range and put the ball past Ellie Roebuck and the Blues an undeserved 1-0 lead.
Lucy Bronze was the first in Lisa Benn’s book three minutes later for a cynical tackle.
Niamh Charles saw her excellent chest down and volley from the edge of the City penalty area inch over Roebuck’s crossbar a minute before the break.
Had that gone in, the outcome of the game against side who always produce tight matches my have been different.
And it took City less than five minutes to justly equalise when Caroline Weir blasted home - Berger got a leg to the ball, but it was too powerful to prevent the ball smashing into the back of the net.
Guro Reiten slashed a left-footer wide as the Blues sought to regain the lead quickly but that was as good as it got for Chelsea.
Charles forced Roebuck into a fine save, but seconds later, on 58 minutes, City turned the game around, and a spill by Berger allowed Ellen White to have the simplest of chances to tuck the ball home from close range.
Predictably, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes opted to make a substitution, on came Lauren James with ineffectual Reiten making way on 68 minutes.
It was all but over a minute later as City crashed home their third when, a succession of corners led to Weir producing an even better shot that almost broke the back of City’s net.
It broke the Blues fans hearts and also their players resolve.
It was last saloon time for the Conti Cup holders which saw Hayes bring on Drew Spence and striker Beth England. Off came Charles and Ji.
With a minutes left Hayes decided to bring on Russian full back Alsu Abdullina for Jonna Andersson.
Chelsea are back in WSL action on Thursday when they travel to east London to face West Ham United.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Ji, Reiten, Kerr, Charles, Harder, Andersson
Subs: Musovic, England, Eriksson, Mjelde, James, Spence, Abdullina
Man City: Roebuck, Stokes, Greenwood, Stanway, Raso, Hemp, white, Weir, Bronze, Walsh, Kennedy
Subs: Keating, Coombs, Beckie, Angeldahl, Park, Shaw, Blakstad
Referee: Lisa Benn