Holders Chelsea into Conti Cup final after 3-1 semi-final win over Man United at Kingsmeadow
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium
Chelsea 3 v Man Utd 1
Pernille Harder show her world class and was the major difference as Chelsea punished the visitors with a fine first half strike that set them up to a 3-1 win in the Conti Cup semi-final over Manchester United at Kingsmeadow.
Further clinical strikes from Jessie Fleming and Jess Carter saw off the resistance of the Mancunians, who had to play the final 12 minutes with 10 players when goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley was sent off for bundling over last player Sam Kerr.
The home side took the lead on 26 minutes and it was the gazelle-like ability of Harder to outwit and outrun the United defence that saw the striker slot the ball home from just inside of the United penalty area.
An innocuous United throw-in on the left was quickly turned over by Guro Reiten, who knocked the ball behind the United defence.
As in the league game at Leigh Valley Sports earlier in the season, Harder sprinted clear. She then twisted the blood of centre-back Aoife Mannion before zipping past Baggaley and tucking the ball home.
Jessie Fleming’s close range downward header from inside a phalanx of United players five minutes later saw the Blues take a 2-0 before Untied hit back with a fine left-byline shot from Vilde Boe Risa that sailed over Zecira Musovic on 32 minutes.
Chelsea restored their two-goal lead on 39 minutes.
A wonderful team goal started by Harder saw the ball fed across the pitch by Sofie Ingle to Reiten on the left, who arrowed the ball across the box and in-running Carter thumped the ball home.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Harder had a penalty shout ignored by referee Paul Howard on 61 minutes when the Dane took on Norway’s Maria Thorisdottir.
Harder fell to the ground in the penalty area, under minimal contact from the centre-back and play rightly continued much to the annoyance of the striker.
Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes decided to make a change on 68 minutes - off came Jessie Fleming, on came Australian Kerr, fresh form international duty on the other side of the world.
The striker had an excellent chance to score with her first touch, but she failed to latch onto an excellent left byline cross by Reiten on 75 minutes.
Three minutes later and disaster struck for the visitors. Kerr was sent free with a one-v-one with Baggaley. Kerr got to the ball first with her knee but Baggaley bashed straight into her.
Howard brandished a red card for the goalkeeper.
United boss Marc Skinner replaced Alessio Russo for substitute goalie Mary Earps.
The Blues continued to dominate play and confidently saw out the remaining minutes t0 book a spot in the final at AFC Wimbledon’s stadium against either Manchester City or S-urs who play their semi-final tomorrow.
Team: Chelsea, Musovic, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder, Andersson
Subs; Berger, Kirby, James, Kerr, Spence, Abdullina, Claypole, Thompson
Man Utd, Baggaley, Thorisdottir, Mannion, Blundell, Boye Rosa, Thomas, Zelenograd, Galton, Groenen, Batlle, Russo
Subs: Earps, Harris, Fuso, Caldwell, Bruun, Hanson, Smith, Jones
Referee: Paul Howard