Chelsea book place in FA Women’s Continental League Cup final, Arsenal beat Man City

Lauren James of Manchester United and Maren Mjelde of Chelsea FC on the ball during the FA Women's Continental League Cup Semi-Final  (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
Lauren James of Manchester United and Maren Mjelde of Chelsea FC on the ball during the FA Women's Continental League Cup Semi-Final (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

Maren Mjelde’s second-half strike saw Chelsea avoid extra time and book their place in the FA Women’s Continental League Cup final at the expense of Manchester United.

In a tight game of few chances it was the London side who took theirs.

United came close on the half-hour mark when Katie Zelem’s in-swinging free-kick skimmed Abbie McManus’ head but only found Carly Telford’s grateful hands.

Chelsea’s first real chance came when Millie Bright’s reaction header forced Mary Earps into an exceptional save, she palmed the ball high in the air and the United defence cleared.

The home side came out of the traps in the second half. The first corner of the game saw Zelem float it onto the head of Amy Turner who headed just wide.

Then Lizzie Arnot’s goalbound header was cleared by Magdalena Eriksson as the game opened up.

Some crunching tackles ensued, Zelem in particular flattened as Eriksson tried to win a header.

But the decisive moment came with 15 minutes left. Erin Cuthbert fired a pass to Mjelde on the edge of the area.

Mjelde controlled the ball on the full beautifully, slipped it onto her right foot and fired a shot high into the opposite corner.

United almost hit back immediately, Jackie Groenen played Lauren James in but she shot over when she should have hit the target.

The Red Devils pushed hard for an equaliser but Bright and Eriksson stood firm in the Blues central defence. It was that pairing that had a large part in Chelsea making the final, that and a touch of class from Mjelde.

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United midfielder Hayley Ladd said: “I think we can really be proud of our performance. I think we have dominated the game in spells, we have had really good possession and looked threatening.

“Performance-wise we’re happy with elements of it. There is certainly something positive to build on. We were plugging away trying to find where the gaps were so it took a little bit of time to expose them.

“We had quite a lot of control in the first half but it is about converting that into clear-cut and good chances. It was quite entertaining [in the second half] for the spectators.

“When they went one-nil up we just had to throw everything at it and we had good chances but with the standards that we hold ourselves to, we want better and more clear-cut chances as well.

“If we want to compete with those top teams, we need to compete in the final third as well and be more composed in that area.”

Chelsea goalscorer Maren Mjelde said: “It feels really good to score the goal. I played a little bit of a new position today; I’ve probably never been a right-winger in my life before.

“I felt it was a bit different from the position I normally play. I just had to dig deep and I think that’s what everyone did.”

On the final at the Nottingham Forest’s City Ground, she said: “I don’t know much about it. But it’s cool for me. If I ask my dad, he’ll probably know a lot about it.”

“It feels amazing, reaching my first cup final, the Continental Cup final. It’s been a big goal for us to reach it so now we’re here so we’re happy about that.”

“It was probably not the best performance but I don’t really care about that. It’s about winning games. We haven’t won semi-finals in the Continental Cup since I’ve been here and I’ve been here for three years so just reaching that final is a big step in the right direction.”

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): Martha Earps; Kirsty Smith, Millie Turner, Abbie McManus, Amy Turner; Hayley Ladd, Katie Zelem ©; Lizzie Arnot, Jackie Groenen, Jess Sigsworth; Lauren James.

Substitutes: Jane Ross for Arnot 76, Martha Harris for McManus 82

Substitutes not used: Aurora Mikalsen, Lotta Okvist, Rebecca May

Goals: Mjelde 72

Bookings: Ingle 28, Eriksson 57

Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford; Jonna Andersson, Magdalena Eriksson ©, Millie Bright, Hannah Blundell; Sophie Ingle, Drew Spence, Maren Mjelde, Guro Reiten; Erin Cuthbert, Bethany England.

Substitutes: Emily Murphy for Spence 90+1

Substitutes not used: Ann-Katrin Berger, Deanna Cooper, Jamie-Lee Cooper.

Bookings: McManus 34, James 45+1

Referee: Elizabeth Sims

Attendance: 1,044

Arsenal 2-1 Man City By Jonny Singer, Sportsbeat

Arsenal booked their place in a third consecutive FA Women’s Continental League Cup final with a 2-1 win over Manchester City at Meadow Park.

Vivianne Miedema got the Gunners off to the perfect start before Danielle van de Donk doubled their advantage just before half time, helped by an uncharacteristic error from City keeper Ellie Roebuck.

After Ellen White had missed a penalty Gemma Bonner did get the visitors back into the game with a close-range finish on the hour. But it wasn’t enough for City, who failed to make the final for the first time since 2015.

City made the faster start, Lauren Hemp and White forcing Manuela Zinsberger into a fine double stop inside five minutes.

But it was Arsenal who struck first, Miedema capitalising on a mistake from Bonner, before twisting past Steph Houghton and firing into the far corner.

The visitors had chances to equalise but were undone by a dreadful mistake at the other end. This time Miedema was the provider, driving into the City box before laying the ball off to Van de Donk.

The midfielder’s shot from the edge of the box was tame, but Roebuck somehow allowed it to squirm in.

Roebuck did her best to atone with two fine second-half saves to deny Miedema and Mead, as City fought back.

White was given a golden chance to get them back into the game after Leonie Maier had fouled Hemp in the box, but Zinsberger guessed correctly to save her spot-kick. The reprieve was short-lived for Arsenal, however, as from the resulting corner Bonner poked home.

City pushed hard for an equaliser but rarely seriously worried Zinsberger, as the Gunners held on to reach the final.

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Arsenal’s Lia Walti said: “It feels good. It’s always our goal before the season starts to reach as many finals as possible, and we did well today to do that.

“This wasn’t the style we usually want to play our football, but sometimes you’ve got to play for a result and to manage the game in the end, and I think we did it well.

“It doesn’t matter who scores really, but today finally Viv scored again and that’s important to us because we need her goals.

“I think we switched off a little after the penalty save. Sometimes you’re still celebrating for the goalkeeper who saved a penalty and you forget to follow your players. I think it was my player actually, and it’s just that concentration we need to keep high.

“We defended really well as a team, everyone working hard. If we’d played like that against Chelsea last week then I think we could have got another result.

“This is what we train for, for these top games, and we wanted to make it better after Chelsea. We knew how Man City were going to play, we had our gameplan and it worked. Against Chelsea it didn’t work, sometimes it’s just if you have a good game, and I’m glad it did today.

“We didn’t really play well in our last game against Chelsea, so we want to prepare for the final, to get the win. In a final anything is possible, maybe we’ll have to play differently to the last game but we have enough time to prepare for that.”

Man City captain Steph Houghton said: “When you get to the semi-final stage in a cup that you currently hold, to not be in the final obviously as a team we’re disappointed.

“But I’m proud of the team, especially second half, I thought we gave it a right go. Maybe we paid Arsenal a bit too much respect in the first half, and paid the price for that.

“We’ve got to go into these kind of games and believe a bit more. We’ve got quality players, the way that we play we can hurt teams. It was just that little bit more quality, that little bit more aggression to get in their faces and stop them playing, and I felt that we did that second half.

“Our tempo caused them problems all game, to be honest I’m just gutted that we didn’t get the second goal. We’ve just got to believe a bit more on Sunday.

“Arsenal are a good team, but so are we. I know a lot of teams put us down in terms of the way we play football, but we’ve got good players, international players who perform on the highest level.

“So for us it’s just about recovering as quickly as we possibly can and making sure that come Sunday we’re going to go fight for this league.”

Arsenal (4-3-3): Manuela Zinsberger; Leonie Maier, Leah Williamson, Viktoria Schnaderbeck, Katie McCabe; Jill Roord, Lia Walti, Danielle van de Donk; Lisa Evans, Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead

Substitutes: Jordan Nobbs for Evans 91,

Substitutes not used: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, Louise Quinn, Melisa Filis, Ruby Grant, Ruby Mace

Goals: Miedema 6, Van de Donk 44

Bookings: Van de Donk 89

Manchester City (4-4-2): Ellie Roebuck; Georgia Stanway, Steph Houghton, Gemma Bonner, Demi Stokes; Jill Scott, Kiera Walsh, Caroline Weir, Lauren Hemp; Ellen White, Tessa Wullaert

Substitutes: Pauline Bremer for White 71, Laura Coombs for Wullaert 81

Substitutes not used: Harima Benameur, Tyler Toland, Jess Park, Emma Bissell, Matilde Fidalgo

Goals: Bonner 59

Bookings: Stanway 14

Referee: Abigail Byrne