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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Bescot Stadium

Kerr header puts Blues into FA Cup final with hard-fought win against Aston Villa

By Paul Lagan at Bescot Stadium

Aston Villa 0 v Chelsea 1

Sam Kerr, who else, scored the only goal of the game as Chelsea reached the FA Cup final with a hard-fought yet underwhelming display against a tough, Aston Villa outfit at the Bescot Stadium.

Chelsea can cite a long injury list - especially in defence, and this dictated the tactics which meant the Blues could not adopt an attack-first policy.

The dour first half was only enlivened in the second when Australian Kerr nodded home from close range on 59 minutes.

Aleisha Lehmann and Sarah Mayling had efforts for the home side, but their best bet was a set piece or defensive effort.

Chelsea, to their credit gave neither away, and the Blues will face Manchester United at Wembley in May.

The early exchanges saw the home side in dominant mood, posession wise and in aggression on the ball - closing down the visitors at every opportunity.

It’s a high-risk strategy that needed to reap early dividends.

Chelsea’s job was to counter-track where possible but to keep the ball as far way from their penalty areas as possible.

A header by Magda Eriksson on 11 minutes from a Eve Perisset corner was the Blues first effort on goal. Hannah Hampton, in goal easily grabbed the soft effort.

Lauren James tried a tricky right-footed curler three minutes later, which inched past Hampton’s goal.

Gradually the visitors wrested control from the Villa and forced several quick corners.

But none came to anything.

The match then entered a bitty, fractured phase, where neither side could claim they were on top.

But if Kerr could curb her ability to stray offside, then a long ball,over the Villa defence could prove crucial. Twice she drifted the wrong side of the Villa defence chasing down the ball.

With a makeshift centre-back pairing of Maren Mjelde and Eriksson, Villa knew that they needed to be on the spot should either produce an error.

A spectacular diving save to her left by Zecira Musovic thwarted Lucy Staniforth’s blistering long-range effort two minutes from half-time.

There were no changes at half-time by either side.

Jelena Cankovic smashed the apex of left post and crossbar, 30 seconds into the restart as if the Blues were given a half-time rollicking from head coach Emma Hayes to up the tempo of their game.

Lehmann almost opened the scoring in 59 minutes but her effort was slashed wide,of Musovic’s goal

Chelsea are League and FA Cup holders for a reason and 45 seconds later Kerr was on hand at the far post to stretch her neck as far as she could muster and she latched onto a nicked Guro Reiten left byline cross and nicked the ball past Hampton to take the lead.

Villa reacted well to the setback, prompting, on 64 minutes for Hayes to make a double substitution - Sophie Ingle replacing Melanie Leupolz with Niamh Charles taking James place.

They were quickly followed by Jessie Fleming for Erin Cuthbert.

Lehmann again had a effort inch wide of Musovic’s goal as Villa piled on the pressure.

But Chelsea were coping, just.

Sarah Maylin hit a low right-footer that pinged off the Chelsea post as the minutes ticked down and Chelsea clung on for dear life.

Musovic was yellow-carded for time-wasting but it was worth it.

Teams: Chelsea, Musovic, Carter, Leupolz, James, Reiten, Perisset, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Cuthbert, Cankovic

Subs: Oman, Ingle, Fleming, Charles, Harder, Abdullina, Kaneryd

Villa, Hampton, Mayling, Lehman , Daly, Dali, Staniforth, Turner, Patten, Hanson, Pacheco, Nobbs

Subs: Leat, Allen, Boyd-Hlorkah, Gregory, Blindkilde Brown, Magill, Keitley, Littlejohn

Referee: Cheryl Foster


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