Chloe Kelly scored her first goal in almost a year as she marked a first Manchester City start of the season by helping her side to the FA Cup final.
City Women were kicking off a semi-final double-header as they took on West Ham at lunchtime on Saturday in Dagenham, before the men’s team faced Liverpool at Wembley at 3.30pm. And the Women got the day off to a good start with a well-earned win to book a fourth appearance in the final.
Ellen White put the Blues ahead after a strong start from West Ham, before Kelly’s first goal back after an 11-month injury lay-off. After West Ham pulled one back, City were professional in the second half and were deserved winners in the sun in East London.
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City’s season looked like falling apart before Christmas as they were beaten by Chelsea in last season’s postponed cup semi-final, but they have now lost just one in 19 games since November – including a Continental Cup final win and now an FA Cup semi-final success.
West Ham had forced City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck into a smart save before White put them ahead, giving City a hold on the semi-final after a tense start. Keira Walsh took aim from 25 yards, her half-volley smashing against the bar, with White quickest to react as she stooped to head home the opener.
Kelly, in her first start since May 2 2021, the game in which she suffered her horror ACL injury, was then gifted a goal that will have been welcomed far beyond those with allegiances to City. West Ham’s Gilly Flaherty passed blindly across her own area, straight to Kelly, who made no mistake.
The celebrations were a mixture of relief and pure delight from Kelly and her teammates, as the striker looked sharp on her latest step in her recovery.
City were pegged back, however, just before the break as Lisa Evans was allowed to dart beyond the defense and finish beyond Roebuck. It was a deserved goal for West Ham, but City deserve credit for keeping control of the game after half-time.
White, who had a goal ruled out for offside in the first half, again saw the flag raised as she scored a fine header from a brilliant Walsh cross. But it didn’t take long for a third as Lauren Hemp finished smartly across the goalkeeper under pressure to kill the semi-final and send City to Wembley.
As the clock ticked over 90 minutes, Hemp made completely sure as she scored her second from a similar position at the back post following good work from Georgia Stanway. The Blues, who won the Continental Cup and are battling Manchester United for a third-placed finish in the Women’s Super League this season, will face either Chelsea or Arsenal in the final showpiece next month.
They will hope for better travel arrangements after they were unable to take trains for this one – just like supporters of the men’s team traveling to Wembley. City and the FA laid on coaches to send fans to this game, and they were rewarded for a fine performance in the sun.
And with Kelly back among the goals, they are continuing their fine run in 2022 as they look to take two trophies and a Champions League qualification from a season that continues to go from strength to strength.