BY PAUL LAGAN
Fran Kirby propelled Chelsea into the FA Cup final with a sensational brace that dumped cup holders Manchester City out in a pulsating 2-0 semi-final victory at Kingsmeadow Stadium this afternoon.
England striker Kirby scored a goal in each half and both were extraordinary solo efforts that required, pace, trickery and clinical finishing – which she had in abundance.
Chelsea will face north London rivals Arsenal in the final, at Wembley on May 5
City had much of the possession, but it was Chelsea who, on the breakaway, in particular, proved to be the greater threat.
Four minutes in and Super Fran Kirby opens the scoring for Chelsea. latching onto a long ball by Magdalena Eriksson, Kirby raced clear giving a clean pair of heels to the chasing City defence before plonking the ball cooly past Ellie Roebuck to put the home side ahead.
The Blues look confident going forward but in defence.
City’s Nikita Parris, outpaced Blundell and Millie Bright, on 22 minutes and put in a quality byline ball. Thankfully for the Chelsea defence Maren Mjelde was able intercept before Nadia Nadim got her head to it and the ball went for a corner.
Kirby had a great chance to double the lead on 30 minutes after a quick counter attack saw Drew Spence feed the ball to Kirby, who took two touches before racing into the City penalty area. However, she screwed the ball wide of Roebuck’s goal.
Parris tried a breathtaking curler on 36 minutes, which just edged wide of Hedvig Lindahl’s left post as the visitors, composed and on top, looked for the equaliser.
Erin Cuthbert shot on goal, on 38 minutes, from the edge of the City area. But it wasn’t powerful enough to trouble Roebuck.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Cuthbert had a great chance two minutes after the restart. But rather than shooting on sight, she tried to cut back for Kirby but the ball was cleared for a corner. Katie Chapman twice headed goal wards from the resultant corner but Roebuck snaffled the rebounded second effort.
A Drew Spence thumper on 59 minutes forced Roebuck into a smart save after the home side withstood some severe pressure exerted by the visitors.
Chelsea’s Maria Thorisdottir sustained a head injury and was carried off on 64 minutes to be replaced by Gilly Flaherty.
Spence finally went into referee Sarah Garratt’s book for persistent low-level fouling on 67 minutes.
After what seemed like an eternity of City pressure, Kirby broke clear on the right after 74 minutes. She raced into the City penalty area, cut back, twisting Jennifer Beattie to the floor before rifling in a sweet low, left-footer past Roebuck to double the lead.
Eniola Aluko entered the fray with 14 minutes left to replace Erin Cuthbert. Gemma Davison then replaced Kirby with nine minutes left.
That allowed Chelsea to sit back, absorb the pressure and push forward if needed.
It was excellent game-management by Emma Hayes that ensured her side head to Wembley full of confidence.
Chelsea: Lindahl, Thorisdottir, Blundell, Bright, Kirby, Eriksson, Chapman, Mjelde, Andersson, Cuthbert, Spence
Subs: Flaherty, Davison, Aluko, Spencer
Man City Women: Roebuck, Stokes, Beattie, Houghton, Scott, Nadia, Christiansen, Stanway, Paris, McManus, Walsh
Subs: Bardsley, Jans, Middag, Ross, Emilie
Referee: Sarah Garrett
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