FA Cup Final 2023: Chelsea v Manchester United
Sam Kerr’s solo effort earns Chelsea their third consecutive FA Cup win as the Red Devils fall short in front of record-breaking crowd
14 May 2023
It took the Manchester United “rebels” just 23 seconds to hit the back of the net, but as the already bubbling volcano of red erupted behind Mary Earps’ goal, Leah Galton’s effort was chalked offside.
An impressive start for Marc Skinner’s side in their first ever major final and a warning for Chelsea as the Red Devils took the opening minutes of the first half by the horns, showing little fear of the occasion and even less of the reigning champions.
Certainly, it was United who had the better of the ball in the first forty-five minutes, as well as the better chances. Millie Turner’s bobbling poke almost found its way over the line half an hour in but the outstretched hand of Ann-Katrin Berger was just enough to keep the score even.
Minutes later, Galton found herself with a clear-cut chance at her feet as Alessia Russo’s cross whipped along the wrong side of Maren Mjelde, yet the winger - who one would’ve bet their house on scoring the sitter - thumped it wide.
United had the tenacity, the drive and the desire, but that clinical touch was lacking. On another day, against another team, these half-hearted efforts have just been enough to eventually open the door, but not in an FA Cup final and not against Chelsea.
The Blues were lacklustre in the first half. In fact, so flat was the first half by both Chelsea and United’s standards that the crowd broke out the Mexican waves (yes, plural) before the clock hit thirty.
Chelsea found themselves restricted to the middle third much more so than they would have liked and offered minimal threat upfront. Emma Hayes however always has a trick or two up her sleeve, along with a bench to make the eyes of oppositions tear up, and it wouldn’t be long before the Chelsea boss pulled rank.
Midfielder Jessie Fleming hadn’t quite brought the creativity or the service needed to draw the best of Sam Kerr, and wingers Lauren James and Guro Reiten had been kept quiet enough that - bar one headed effort from James – Earps had not been troubled much at all.
Enter Pernille Harder.
Enough was enough. Hayes made her first substitutions and the moment Fleming was replaced by Harder the tide turned.
Within ten minutes of the Dane coming on Chelsea’s momentum had galvanised tenfold and the Blues had taken the lead. With the same move that had caught United out just moments before, Harder thundered past Hannah Blundell and Millie Turner and crossed the ball to an onrushing Kerr, who beat Maya Le Tissier in the footrace and slotted the ball past Earps.
It was a tall order for United to recover from the Chelsea beast that had finally awoken, but the Reds did well to minimise the damage and hold down a one-goal deficit. Marc Skinner’s side showed up and played the big game, and should take immense pride in the show they put on for their incredibly vocal supporters.
Chelsea, on the other hand, are inevitable. The quality the Blues exude on the pitch, as well as the quality that sits patiently on the bench, provoked gently until it was time to bite.
Cued by Emma Hayes, captains Magdalena Eriksson and Millie Bright lifted the silverware to the delight of the thousands in Blue and Chelsea were Champions once again.
Chelsea: Berger (GK), Perisset, Mjelde, Eriksson (C), Charles (72’), Leupolz (57’), Cuthbert, Fleming (57’), James (87’), Reiten, Kerr
Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Ingle (57’), Carter (72’, Svitkova, Rytting Kaneryd, Harder (57’), Buchanan (87’), Abdullina, Cankovic
Goals: Kerr 68’
Booked: Charles, James,
Manchester United: Earps (GK), Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell (76’), Zelem (C), Ladd (90’), Toone (76’), Galton, Parris (60’), Russo
Substitutes: Baggaley (GK), Mannion (76’), Boe Risa, Thomas (90’), Riviere, Naalsund, Garcia (76’), Williams (60’), Cascarino
Officials: Emily Heaslip, Georgia Ball, Chloe-Ann Small, Abigail Byrne
Attendance: 77, 390