2021 Vitality Women’s FA Cup Final - ‘Road to Wembley’ complete

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Groundhopper, Paul Donegan, completes his FA Cup journey and takes us through his final stop.

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Photograph courtesy of Paul Donegan

If you have read my previous piece then you will know that I had been to a match in every round of the FA Cup at least once over the last two Covid hit seasons and only had the final left to go and watch. Well on Sunday, I went to the 2021 final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium! This piece will look back at my day watching the final and competing my own ‘road to Wembley’. I bought a ticket for the final at the start of November so I already knew the final would be between Arsenal and Chelsea, the top two sides in the WSL this current season. It was a match I was looking forward to going to from when I booked the tickets up until the day of the match. It was also going to be a bit of as special final as it was being played on the 5th December, the day that marked the 100 year anniversary of the FA banning women playing on their pitches which lasted for 50 years. This final would also celebrate 50 years of the cup. My last trip to Wembley Stadium to watch a match was for the Lionesses v Germany game just over two years ago. On that Saturday afternoon I had transport issues getting there so I thought this time I would leave home around 4 hours before the start of the match to allow myself plenty of time! And with no transport issues this time, I got to Wembley Park tube station around two and a half hours before kick off. Maybe I could have had an extra hour in bed! I wasn’t the only one who decided to get there early as there were quite a few people wearing Arsenal and Chelsea scarves on the tube.
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Photograph courtesy of Paul Donegan

Along with a lot of others, I took a photo of the stadium as you look towards it from the top of the stairs at the exit of the station. Whenever I go to Wembley, Wembley Park is my preferred station to go to as it allows me to walk down Olympic Way towards the stadium and it always gives me a special feeling. There are food and merchandise stalls, and it was also along here that I bought a programme (cost £5). Boxpark, which is along Olympic Way, was also open for match ticket holders but there was a queue to get in so I bought a hot chocolate from a stall and carried on walking down to the stadium. By now it had started to lightly rain, so I sheltered under the stairs up to the stadium and had a read of the programme. The rain stopped shortly after, and I went up to the turnstiles on the upper level. There was still about half an hour until they opened so I took a photo of the Bobby Moore statue outside the front of the stadium then joined a queue at the turnstiles my ticket was for. At 12:30 the turnstiles opened and I went in, scanning my ticket then going through an airport style metal detector. I didn’t have a bag with me so the security guy waved me through into the vast concourse area where there are lots of food kiosks and toilets. After that I went into the stadium to find my seat. My seat was near the top of the bottom tier, near one of the corners (at the Chelsea end) on the tunnel side and across a barrier from the press area (which meant a wave before and a quick chat after the match with Charlotte who was there for On Her Side!). There was an army band playing to start with then Ella Henderson sang a few songs. When the teams came out to do their warm ups, I went back to the concourse area to get some food and a drink (had a steak pie and with a drink cost £8.80). After that it was back to my seat and almost time for the action on the pitch to begin!
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Pyrotechnics went off as the players came out before they were introduced to the guests of honour, the national anthem was sung by Ella Henderson and the players took a knee before kick off. It didn’t take long for Chelsea to take the lead when Fran Kirby scored after 3 minutes. Chelsea had chances to increase their lead in the first half but were denied by a combination of hitting the woodwork a few times and some good saves by Zinsberger in goal for Arsenal. I was starting to think if it would be one of those afternoons where Chelsea would be ruing those missed opportunities in the first half as they went in at half time only leading 1-0. Chelsea needn’t have worried though as Sam Kerr scored a second for them after 57 minutes. Chelsea were the better side in the second half as well, hitting the woodwork again as they looked to put the game out of sight. Around the 70 minute mark, the first of the dreaded Mexican waves started to go around the stadium (I did not join in) and the attendance was announced as being 40,942. Chelsea did score a third after 77 minutes when Kerr got her second of the match with a brilliant chip. As the final whistle was blown, the Chelsea songs started being played in the stadium as their players and fans celebrated. Being closer to the Chelsea end meant that the trophy presentation happened in front of me, with added pyrotechnics and streamers! The arch was also lit in blue in celebration of Chelsea’s win.
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Photograph courtesy of Paul Donegan

Chelsea deserved their win, and it could easily have been more than 3-0. I had a good day and really enjoyed the final. Thanks to those at the FA who organised it all! The 2022 FA Cup final is due to take place on 15th May and tickets are already available for this (link below). And that was the end of my ‘road to Wembley’. A match seen at least once in each round, from the extra-preliminary to the final, over the last two Covid hit seasons. Road to Wembley complete!!

Vitality FA Cup 2022 Information

Women's Football, Wembley Stadium, Barclays WSL, Chelsea, Arsenal