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City Women through to Conti Cup final

Parris on fire following outstanding performance

Man City Women secured their place in the final of Continental Cup after an emphatic semi-final win over Chelsea FC Women away at Kingsmeadow. Despite a tricky first half, the Blues fought back to claim victory over the current WSL champions with Nikita Parris on the scoresheet once again, going into their league meeting on Sunday

Nick Cushing’s side started positively with Steph Houghton’s long ball headed on by Demi Stokes, Caroline Weir doing well to collect and keep it in play despite pressure from Chelsea vice-captain Millie Bright. Weir played through Georgia Stanway but the forward lost possession to Anita Asante, the defender still under pressure from Stanway as the youngster chased her down and put the ball behind for a goal kick.

Stanway was there to collect another of Houghton’s balls over the top seconds later, the twenty year old sending a shot straight at Hedvig Lindahl.

Play was pulled back for offside against Parris after the forward had collected Keira Walsh’s through ball with the Chelsea keeper stepping up to take the following free kick. Houghton met the ball from Ali Riley with her head, Walsh picking it up but losing out to Erin Cuthbert, the Scotland international playing through Fran Kirby whose shot forced a save from Karen Bardsley.

Man City keeper Karen Bardsley
Getty Images

Pressure on Lindahl from Georgia forced the keeper to play it out to Magdalena Eriksson, the Swede finding Bethany England with the forward playing through Kirby; whose run and shot goal-wards caused Bardsley to make a save.

The ball found its way back to Cuthbert as Demi came across to cover and prevent any further danger, the defender doing enough to make Cuthbert put the ball behind for a City goal kick.

Just after the fifteen minute mark Nikita made a run to connect with Jen Beattie’s long ball, the forward laying it off to Stokes who beat Jess Carter and sent a cross into the area. Caroline was waiting and attempted the spectacular however she couldn’t get the angle and the ball fell to Ji So-Yun on the wing and the number 10 cleared.

A period of possession for the visitors saw Parris bring Bardsley’s goal-kick down well, the forward finding Belgian Tessa Wullaert whose cross in to the area was put behind by Lindahl. The following corner was taken by Weir but skimmed the heads of Houghton and Bright, Georgia winning the ball back off Deanna Cooper before she put the ball out for a Chelsea throw in.

Walsh’s ball wide was collected by Stokes, the defender playing through Stanway who’d made the overlapping run however City’s number 12 lost to Mille Bright; the defender covering the ball until Lindahl could pick it up. The home side’s keeper played it back out Bright, Chelsea playing it around at the back until Cooper’s pass to Carter was missed by the number 7 and City won a throw in.

Caroline picked up the ball and played a one touch sequence with Demi, Stanway making the overlapping run to get there before Bright but the Chelsea captain cleared it away.

As Chelsea built up from the back, City found themselves sitting on the defensive side as Jess Carter’s cross into the area was met by Erin Cuthbert who sent a shot towards the goal; forcing a brilliant save from Bardsley. The resulting corner was taken by Eriksson only to be cleared away by Gemma Bonner, Nikita picking up the loose ball under pressure from Ji with Wullaert collecting the pass but putting it behind for another corner. Cuthbert stepped up this time and Weir cleared any danger, Tessa losing possession to Carter who found Ji again on the wing; the South Korean finding Bright on the overlap. Jill Scott got across to cover the defender as Chelsea built up again, Bright sending in a curling ball, Jill and Steph getting their heads to it with Anita Asante put it behind.

A City free kick was taken by Weir, whose curling ball found itself cleared by Carter with Wullaert collecting it and sending a low shot at Lindahl.

With five minutes of normal time remaining, Cuthbert’s cross in was met Beattie’s head before Nikita cleared, Ali Riley and Eriksson playing a one touch sequence with Riley on the overlap. The New Zealander’s cross in was headed on by Bethany England for Bardsley to watch behind.

The second half started in City’s favour with Jen bringing down Lindahl’s goal kick and playing through Caroline and the midfielder, despite losing possession to Millie Bright, carried on pressuring the defender for the ball. Bright went back to her keeper and Lindahl sent it up the pitch, Jill collecting before Weir played through Parris, Nikita forcing a save from the Chelsea goalie.

City’s breakthrough came in the fourth minute of the half, Bonner’s long ball met by Parris before the forward made a run into the box, Deanna Cooper bringing the twenty four year old down; earning herself a yellow card and the Blues a penalty.

Nikita stepped up to take the spot kick and buried the ball in the top left of the net, Lindahl diving the right way; Parris jumping in the air as way of celebration.

Nikita Parris celebrates her penalty

The visitors weren’t on top of possession for long, Georgia fouling Ji and giving away a free kick, Erin Cuthbert stepping up to send the ball into the area with Jen shielding the ball enough to see it behind for a corner. Magdalena Eriksson sent in the cross from the left and Gemma Bonner got her head on it to clear the danger.

Bonner was involved again a few minutes later, her header on was collected by Nikita who played through Scott after she made the overlapping run; Eriksson putting it out. Weir’s cross in caused a scramble in the box and was eventually cleared, Stanway collecting the loose ball and attempting a run back into the area before Cuthbert dispossessed her.

The visitors were awarded four corners in the space of a minute, the first cleared by Eriksson and put out for a throw in, the second put behind again by Eriksson with the third one being played short to Wullaert. Her cross in connected with Scott’s head however Lindahl was equal to it and ran across the goal to smother the ball and stop City pouncing. The Blues fourth corner was again taken by Weir in the absence of Emslie or Lawley and even Stanway, despite Georgia being on the pitch, Jill getting her head to it and Lindahl collecting before the referee pulled play back for foul on the keeper and a Chelsea free kick.

With fifteen minutes to go, a corner for the home side was played short to Fran Kirby, the forward playing through substitute Hannah Blundell whose cross in was met by Bonner and Eriksson then cleared away.

Emma Hayes’s side ramped up the pressure on City with Tessa blocking a shot from Ji and Karen Bardsley saving one from Blundell in quick succession. The Blues also had their own chances with Georgia making a run before Eriksson and substitute Drew Spence blocked her path, the forward laying it off to Parris; her shot saved.

Cushing’s side built from the back, Jen Beattie finding Stanway however the ball dropped behind her, luckily Nikita was there to pick it up before playing in Weir. The twenty three year old played through Georgia as Lindahl came out to collect, the forward rounding the keeper and attempting a low cross for one of her teammates but Mille Bright got back and covered enough for Stanway to put it behind.

The visitors second goal came courtesy of none other than Parris, the forward collecting Beattie’s clearance and running half of the pitch to slot the ball past Lindahl.

Chelsea weren’t down and out yet, Drew Spence playing through Kirby, the number 14 turning and shooting over Bardsley’s net with substitute Jonna Andersson making an attempt to run in behind and score. Hannah Blundell came closest in the last minute or so of the three added minutes, making a run to the touchline and looking to cut the ball back for a teammate, Jill covering and making sure Blundell put it behind in the last major action of the match.

Captain Steph Houghton celebrates reaching the final

Speaking after the game, manager Nick Cushing told mancity.com “Chelsea caused us problems tactically, they didn’t do what we expected. We asked the players to adapt in the moment. Chelsea were really effective – they had three at the back and they overloaded the full-backs. Bright and Eriksson were clinical with the diagonal balls”.

“I asked the team to be a bit brace and offensively, get our level up. That happened. It’s easy for coaches to explain it on a tactics board, talking. The real magic is when the players produce it. It was incredible”.

Forward Nikita Parris also told mancity.com “It’s a great feeling (getting to the final) – the smile on my face says it all. It was a massive team performance. We were under the cosh the first half but in the second half, we came out fighting. We’re an offensive, high-pressing team but we didn’t do our job properly in the first half. We couldn’t deal with Chelsea’s wide press”.

Speaking on the weekend’s fixture against Emma Hayes’s side “Chelsea will come out fighting and it’s an important three points for both of us. It will be an electric game on Sunday”.

Man City Women take on Chelsea FC Women again on Sunday 10th February, this time at home in the WSL, tickets are available and kick off is 1pm but be aware that this is a double header with the men’s team; who kick off at 4pm. The Blues are then back in FA Cup action, away to Tottenham Hotspur Ladies in the fifth round on February 17th.

Chelsea FC Women

Hedvig Lindahl, Millie Bright ©, Anita Asante, Jess Carter (Hannah Blundell 72’), Ji So-Yun, Ali Riley (Drew Spence 65’), Fran Kirby, Bethany England, Magdalena Eriksson, Deanna Cooper (Jonna Andersson 72’) and Erin Cuthbert

Subs: (not used): Carly Telford, Sophie Ingle, Karen Carney and Adelina Engman

Bookings: Cooper 48’, Eriksson 56’ and Ji 84’

Man City Women

Karen Bardsley, Demi Stokes, Gemma Bonner, Jen Beattie Steph Houghton ©, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris, Caroline Weir, Keira Walsh and Tessa Wullaert

Subs (not used): Ellie Roebuck, Mel Lawley, Pauline Bremer, Esme Morgan, Lauren Hemp, Jess Park and Claire Emslie

Goals: Parris (PEN) 49’ and 81’

MCWFC OSC POTM: Nikita Parris

Attendance: 1,358

Referee: David Rock