Stunning Man City comeback seals Conti Cup win over Chelsea FC Women and sends message to WSL – Joe Bray

Manchester City produced a stunning second-half comeback to win the Continental Cup final and continue their remarkable run of form in a season that may still have some life in it.

Trailing at the break and left to rue an awful refereeing decision, City must have felt it was a case of de ja vu as they were staring at a fourth defeat to Chelsea this season. But Caroline Weir inspired a brilliant turnaround to give City an eighth trophy in as many years in the women’s game.

With City’s men looking for a derby win over United on Sunday, the women ensured they begin this weekend in winning fashion with three goals in 20 second-half minutes. After coming up second best to Chelsea so often recently and in various heartbreaking circumstances, this win will be so much sweeter given their struggles on and off the pitch this season. Against the side that torments them so often, City showed the country they are firmly back on track.

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The build-up to this final was positive from City, coming into the game on the back of two morale-boosting derby victories over United in as many weeks. Chelsea, who won the domestic treble last season, are a level above United however, and Gareth Taylor stressed that City were not just in this final to turn up – they wanted to show they are equals with Emma Hayes’ side after a frustrating season that have seen them lose three times already to Chelsea, conceding eight without reply.

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In a scrappy opening, Chelsea almost made it eight with a number of half-chances as they pressed high, while a lapse in concentration almost gifted Ellen White an opener at the other end. Taylor had recalled Caroline Weir and Hayley Raso after the pair changed the game against United last week, and when City did get the ball off their opponents they looked to both for inspiration.

Instead, as City grew into the game, it was two regulars who provided a spark. Lauren Hemp wriggled out of a tricky situation and fed Georgia Stanway who played a one-two and got into a crossing position. The low ball in was perfect for the run of Hemp, who hit the post from inside the six yard box. The ball bounced out to Demi Stokes, and when her shot from her hit the hand of Sophie Ingle above the Chelsea defender’s head, the whole ground expected a penalty. Inexplicably, referee Lisa Benn said no she despite having a perfect view of the blatant handball.

Should City have had a penalty? Watch the incident here:

With VAR not in operation, City had to accept the decision, but doing so will have been harder to take when Chelsea took the lead shortly after – Ellie Roebuck failed to catch a cross and Sam Kerr swiveled to open the scoring.

It was a tough one to take, and the penalty incident will surely be one used to support calls for VAR to be introduced in the women’s game, either in full or in a reduced form for key moments. If some sort of video review system was in place at Plow Lane, the officials wouldn’t have needed more than one look to determine that City should have had a penalty.

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PGMOL chief Mike Riley telephoned Everton manager Frank Lampard to apologize for the decision not to award a penalty against Rodri in the Premier League last week. He may be looking for Taylor’s number after this ending.

Luckily for City, they ensured the game wouldn’t be decided by such a poor decision. Taylor’s half-time team talk worked wonders for the second week in a row as Stanway galloped down the right and centered for Weir. She controlled with her right of her and smashed City level with her left of her.

Watch Weir’s goal here:

It was a goal that opened the final up into an end to end contest akin to the other famous sport in Wimbledon, and City went from deuce to advantage just before the hour mark when Hemp’s shot was parried by Ann-Katrin Berger and White was quick to rush towards the net and bundle over the line. All of a sudden, City were in control and the penalty call was long forgotten.

Watch White’s goal here:

Chelsea were shocked by City’s second-half turnaround, and couldn’t replicate their first-half dominance to hit back. City smelled blood and Weir had her second de ella as she reacted quickest from a corner to guide the ball into the top corner and send the traveling City fans into raptures.

Watch Weir’s second here:

White could have had her second when she hit a free ball at Berger, before she couldn’t nudge a rebound over the line from a Bronze header. Like last week’s derby win, City were a different side after the break and Chelsea had no answer. Finally, at the fourth attempt this season, the Blues showed what they are capable of against last year’s winners.

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City may not win the WSL this season, but this triumph may mean just as much given everything that has gone against them this season. Chelsea have pipped them to the league title for the last two years, and have been their tormentors this year. This cup success shows they are a match for anyone when they are at full strength and have a point to prove.

Finally, City have beaten Chelsea to a trophy – and they did it in their own backyard. Now, they will look to do it again, and again.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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