Kirby sends Chelsea into Women’s FA Cup final against Arsenal

Suzanne Wrack at Kingsmeadow
The Guardian
<span>Chelsea’s Fran Kirby celebrates.</span> <span>Photograph: Eddie Keogh for FA/REX/Shutterstock</span>
Chelsea’s Fran Kirby celebrates. Photograph: Eddie Keogh for FA/REX/Shutterstock

A goal in each half from the in-form England striker Fran Kirby booked Chelsea a place in the FA Cup final at the expense of Manchester City.

Chelsea took full advantage of any weary England legs in the City starting XI as Kirby fired them in front inside five minutes.

With two league meetings unable to separate the sides this season, this FA Cup semi-final match up promised the first chance to see these side go head to head and be forced to fight for a win.

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Eight Manchester City players featured over England’s two World Cup qualifiers against Wales then Bosnia and Herzegovina, compared to Chelsea’s two. And with Kriby sitting out the trip to Sarajevo to protect a niggle the Londoners clearly benefited from rested legs.

England and City captain Steph Houghton was at fault she mistimed a headed clearance to let in Kirby who slotted past 18-year-old Ellie Roebuck.

Going a goal behind failed to rattle City who dominated possession for the rest of the half but were unable to break through a resilient Chelsea back line.

While wave after wave of City attack arrived, Nadia Nadim was closed out by Millie Bright and Maren Mjelde and looked isolated in the middle. City’s brightest outlet looked to be Nikita Parris down the left, but bar a shot from distance and a through balled poked straight at Hedvig Lindahl there was little direct threat on the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea squad depth was tested. Missing Ji So-yun, who is in Jordan with South Korea for the Asia Cup, and Ramona Bachmann to a late injury, they showed no signs of being fazed by the rearranged starting eleven.

Both sides have shown signs of fatigue though. A heavy fixture schedule – both are in the semi-finals of the Champions League – has seen their league form take a hit. City having lost two and drawn one (against Chelsea) since they last won a WSL match, against Liverpool on 11 February. While Chelsea have three draws in a row since they last picked up three points - away to Yeovil on 21 February.

Chelsea started the second half much more brightly and the game started to open up. Drew Spence forced a save from Roebuck who spilled the ball before falling on it under pressure.

A lengthy stoppage as Maria Thorisdottir was treated for an ankle injury before being stretchered off, showed no signs of slowing play as City began to knock on the Chelsea door, Georgia Stanway forcing a fingertip save from Lindahl.

But pushing forward left them exposed, and again Kirby was there to pounce and score her 22nd goal of the season. Capitalising on another City mistake, Kirby pick the ball up just inside the halfway line, drove towards the City area, before cutting inside and slotting a cool finish past Roebuck in the 74th minute.

A standing ovation greeted the striker as she made way for Aluko shortly after, rested, no doubt, for Chelsea’s midweek trip to Everton and then Sunday’s visit of Wolfsburg who have twice knocked the Londoners out of the Champions League.

City, meanwhile, who started the season with hopes of multiple silverware, now look like they could finish the season empty-handed. Nick Cushing’s side will have to dust themselves off ahead of a visit from Sunderland before they host Champions League holders Lyon at the Academy Stadium next weekend.

Chelsea will play Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley on 5 May, after Louise Quinn headed in an injury-time winner for the Gunners against Everton in the other semi-final.

PFA Player of the Year shortlists announced

The PFA have announced the nominees for the Women’s Player of the Year and Women’s Young Player of the Year awards. Chelsea dominate the main shortlist with five players, including England forward Fran Kirby and 2014-15 winner Ji So-Yun. Manchester City’s Jill Scott completes the list, while three of her team-mates – Ellie Roebuck, Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh – are up for the young player award.

Women’s PFA Player of the Year shortlist: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Ji So-Yun (Chelsea), Maren Mjelde (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Ramona Bachman (Chelsea)

Young Player of the Year shortlist: Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

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