Sam Kerr was Chelsea’s matchwinner yet again as they wrapped up a third successive Women’s FA Cup title with victory over Manchester United in front of a world-record crowd at Wembley Stadium.
Kerr, who has netted six goals in the competition this season, fired in a cross from Pernille Harder and celebrated in front of Chelsea supporters with her trademark backflip.
The game had been finely poised until Kerr broke the deadlock despite Manchester United, competing in their first major cup final, being on top for most of the first half.
Marc Skinner’s side, who have never defeated Chelsea, imposed themselves early on when Leah Galton had a goal ruled out within 23 seconds of kick-off for offside.
United had an edge after the chaotic start and came close again when Millie Turner almost stabbed in a loose ball on a free-kick, before Galton sliced Alessia Russo’s low cross wide at the near post.
But Chelsea always carried a threat through Lauren James, who looped a header which was expertly tipped on to the post by goalkeeper Mary Earps.
With 77,390 watching on at Wembley – a world record for a women’s domestic match – Chelsea began to impose their quality after the break.
Substitute Harder eventually provided the extra quality they needed when she teed up Kerr, ensuring Chelsea became the first side since Arsenal in 2008 to win three Women’s FA Cups in a row.
It is their fifth FA Cup crown overall and the latest in a growing list of phenomenal achievements by Emma Hayes’ side – and she will hope to add more in a few weeks’ time as Chelsea remain locked in a fierce Women’s Super League title race with United.
Chelsea still the team to beat
Chelsea’s achievement, winning a third consecutive FA Cup crown, will not come as a surprise given their relentless hunger for silverware – but it’s still an immense feat.
They have been the team to beat for several seasons under Hayes and each year have faced increasingly ambitious opponents.
United are the latest to develop and will no doubt challenge again but today, Chelsea showed their superiority in the moments when it mattered.
Kerr, recently named Football Writer’s Player of the Year, has led from the front all season, scoring goals and carrying a weight of responsibility on her shoulders as other senior players struggled through injury.
It was fitting then that it was Kerr who delivered the match-winning move – again – linking up with attacking partner Harder, who only returned from a long-term injury this month.
Hayes has often described Kerr as the world’s best striker and she always turns up on the big stage – netting in six successive cup finals for the Blues, including the extra-time winner over Manchester City in last year’s FA Cup.
Knowing Kerr just needs the one chance was in the back of everyone’s mind and, when Harder drilled it across the box from the right, the Chelsea supporters behind the goal had already started to celebrate.
United will be back again soon
United were in unknown territory having reached their first final but they did not show any sign of stage fright.
Having reformed the women’s team only five years ago, their astonishing rise to the top of the WSL table and to the FA Cup final was already an achievement in itself.
And this is a squad packed full of winners – including four Lionesses who won Euro 2022 at Wembley a year ago.
They showed their intent in the first half in particular, being the better side for large periods, but as the game wore on, Chelsea began to take control.
United centre-backs Turner and Maya Le Tissier were in fine form, playing out from the back and largely managing Kerr’s dangerous runs in behind.
But United’s lack of ruthlessness in key moments proved costly.
Turner and Galton’s chances in the first half were squandered, Russo’s efforts went straight to goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger and a late scramble in stoppage time was cleared by Chelsea.
It was a harsh lesson in fine margins but United showed they belong on this stage and they will be back again. They still have a WSL title to compete for and now they have experienced the Wembley arena, they will surely be hungry to return.
Player of the match
Squad number20Player nameKerr
Squad number23Player nameHarder
Squad number22Player nameCuthbert
Squad number10Player nameJames
Squad number5Player nameIngle
Squad number26Player nameBuchanan
Squad number7Player nameCarter
Squad number16Player nameEriksson
Squad number21Player nameCharles
Squad number11Player nameReiten
Squad number30Player nameBerger
Squad number18Player nameMjelde
Squad number15Player namePérisset
Squad number17Player nameFleming
Squad number8Player nameLeupolz
Manchester United Women
Squad number27Player nameEarps
Squad number7Player nameToone
Squad number23Player nameRusso
Squad number22Player nameParris
Squad number15Player nameLe Tissier
Squad number2Player nameBatlle
Squad number11Player nameGalton
Squad number21Player nameTurner
Squad number6Player nameBlundell
Squad number12Player nameLadd
Squad number10Player nameZelem
Squad number17Player nameGarcía
Squad number9Player nameThomas
Squad number5Player nameMannion
Squad number28Player nameWilliams
- 21CharlesBooked at 56minsSubstituted forCarterat 72′minutes
- 8LeupolzSubstituted forIngleat 57′minutesBooked at 87mins
- 10JamesBooked at 80minsSubstituted forBuchananat 88′minutes
- 17FlemingSubstituted forHarderat 57′minutes
- 11ReitenBooked at 53mins
- 19Rytting Kaneryd
Man Utd Women
- 15Le Tissier
- 6BlundellSubstituted forGarcíaat 79′minutes
- 12LaddSubstituted forThomasat 90+1′minutes
- 22ParrisSubstituted forWilliamsat 61′minutes
- 7TooneSubstituted forMannionat 79′minutes
- 8Bøe Risa
- Emily Heaslip
Match ends, Chelsea Women 1, Manchester United Women 0.
Second Half ends, Chelsea Women 1, Manchester United Women 0.
Foul by Rachel Williams (Manchester United Women).
Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Leah Galton (Manchester United Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Aoife Mannion (Manchester United Women) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Katie Zelem with a cross.
Corner, Manchester United Women. Conceded by Kadeisha Buchanan.
Offside, Chelsea Women. Sophie Ingle tries a through ball, but Sam Kerr is caught offside.
Offside, Manchester United Women. Leah Galton tries a through ball, but Lucía García is caught offside.
Substitution, Manchester United Women. Martha Thomas replaces Hayley Ladd.
Attempt missed. Rachel Williams (Manchester United Women) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Alessia Russo with a headed pass.
Foul by Leah Galton (Manchester United Women).
Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Kadeisha Buchanan replaces Lauren James.
Sophie Ingle (Chelsea Women) is shown the yellow card.
Rachel Williams (Manchester United Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Guro Reiten (Chelsea Women).
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Delay in match because of an injury Ève Périsset (Chelsea Women).
Attempt blocked. Rachel Williams (Manchester United Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alessia Russo.