Man City win Women’s FA Cup, but here’s six things you might have missed this season
This afternoon saw Manchester City defeat West Ham United 3-0 to claim their second ever Women’s FA Cup title.
Second-half strikes from Keira Walsh – for just her second goal of the season – Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp secured the Cup for the Citizens.
It means City eased their Women Super League disappointment which is their second honour claimed this season after earlier winning the FA Women’s Super League Continental Cup.
It has been a tantalising competition this season from start to finish this with England Women’s national team manager Phil Neville describing Saturday’s final as “the biggest day in women’s domestic football.”
Here are six things you may have missed from this season’s Women’s FA Cup.
It’s been a 10-month affair
Following Arsenal’s triumphant 3-1 win over London rivals Chelsea last May, little over three months flew by before the competition was back up and running.
There were 293 official entries accepted by the Football Association at the start of the season with 106 teams entering the Preliminary Round – a round of fixtures enforced on the FA due to the vast number of willing participates – with the prize money received just £325 per team.
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It wasn’t until the fourth round where the 22 FA Women’s Super League’s teams joined the competition. By then there had already been 1252 goals scored in the competition.
The FA Cup finalists both started their journey at home by beating third-tier opposition, with City beating Watford – this year’s men’s FA Cup final fixture – 3-0 while the Hammers defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-1.
Such is the motion of football, this year’s competition will be over in a flash, prompting a large variety of teams to start planning and preparing to have another go – for a few teams – in a few months time.
Final two have been unbeatable at the back and lethal in the front
Nick Cushing’s Manchester City side have been in fantastic form throughout the campaign at both ends of the football pitch.
The Citizens have gone through almost the entire Women’s Super League campaign without losing a single match – winning 14 times in the process – but were sensationally still pipped to the title by Arsenal with a game to spare.
Their FA Cup campaign has proven to be more successful as they got their hands on the trophy, with City going through the entire competition without conceding.
Winning three matches 3-0 against Watford, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool before a cruel last-minute own-goal by Swedish defender Magdalena Eriksson saw Cushing’s squad defeat Chelsea 1-0 in the semi-finals at the Academy Stadium.
However, they haven’t been the only side to impress this season, with West Ham proving their worth up the other end of the pitch as they have powered their way to the final.
The east London side had netted 13 goals in their four FA Cup games before the final including a demolishing 8-1 victory over third-tier Huddersfield Town in February.
Wembley is where the heart is
The home of football. Wembley Stadium has played host to the men’s FA Cup final since 1923, barring its reconstruction at the start of the 21st century.
Despite the women FA Cup’s beginning in the 1970/71 season, the first final to take place at Wembley Stadium was in 2015.
Now celebrating it’s fifth successive year with Wembley hosting the festivities, it is yet another sign of how the game is evolving.
England Women’s head coach Phil Neville couldn’t hide his excitement prior to this year’s final, telling reporters: “No doubt this is the biggest day in women’s domestic football – it’s played in the home of football with a brilliant crowd and two good teams.”
First-time success for the Hammers
There wouldn’t have been too many people who would have believed that the Hammers had it in them to smash past all opposition to reach the final two in the FA Cup.
Formally West Ham Ladies, the Hammers saw their application to join the Women’s Super League accepted after the restructuring of division’s last summer.
Upon joining the club in last June, manager Matt Beard told reporters: “I’m absolutely delighted to be joining West Ham United Ladies. I’ve been really impressed with the set-up here and the ambition of the football club.”
From that point, the Hammers have impressed this season, winning seven Women Super League matches ensuring their league survival while balancing their cup campaign.
Their penalty shoot-out win over fellow WSL side Reading away from home is a particular highlight, with Cho So-hyun earning hero status upon burying the decisive spot-kick.
This penalty success has been the epitome of their form in the FA Cup with their performances showcasing various examples of talent, focus and professionalism to earn their ticket to Wembley Stadium.
Surprise exit for record-holding Arsenal
There are no teams in women’s football who are more successful than Arsenal who have won 50 national honours to date.
Among these titles, the Gunners have won a mighty 14 FA Cups – with their first coming in just 1993 – meaning they have won over half of the FA Cup’s across the past 26 years.
However, Clare Wheatley’s side – who did so well to claim the WSL title ahead of Manchester City this season – lost convincingly to London rivals Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in front of a crowd of 2,232 in the fifth round.
The result meant this year’s FA Cup final wouldn’t involve Arsenal for just the tenth time since their first competition triumph.
Attendance numbers sustained
The FA Cup has seen some decent attendances throughout the rounds but none this season were close to the large contingent who travelled to Wembley Stadium today.
Manchester City would have been disappointed to lose the WSL attendance record to Arsenal last week who had 5,265 watching them claim the WSL title last week.
And although City didn’t smash the FA Cup final record attendance set last season this time around, the 43,264 was just shy of the 45,423 accumulated last year between two sides based in London.
Each season has seen attendances rise and it’s good to see it sustained once again in this final, with former venues such as Stadium MK (30,500), Keepmoat Stadium (15,231) and Ashton Gate Stadium (27,000) all now too small to host the competition’s finale.