Rachel Williams & Lucia Garcia celebrate United's second goal against Chelsea

United Women 2 Chelsea 1

Sunday 14 April 2024 17:09

Manchester United are into the Adobe Women’s FA Cup final for the second year in a row after securing a momentous 2-1 victory over Chelsea at Leigh Sports Village.

The Reds had never previously managed to beat Emma Hayes’s Chelsea prior to kick-off, but first half goals from Lucia Garcia and Rachel Williams ultimately proved decisive in an incredible team performance from Marc Skinner’s side.

Lauren James pulled one back for Chelsea in the closing stages of the first 45 and there was relentless pressure from the Blues after the break, but United held out to secure our return to Wembley Stadium, where Tottenham Hotspur await on 12 May.

Mary Earps made a number of important saves throughout the contest and it was an all-team effort from everyone in red to see out the historic win.


It was an absolute dream start for the Reds, with Garcia’s early goal coming with just 41 seconds on the clock. The move began at the back, where Mary Earps kicked long and Williams leapt to flick the ball on. Chelsea had the opportunity to clear the danger, but Eve Perisset’s attempt was scuffed, allowing Leah Galton to race clear down the left, lofting the ball into the middle where Garcia was waiting to nod home a close-range header.

James unusually put Chelsea’s first sight of goal high and wide from just inside the area, while Johanna Rytting Kaneryd’s 16th-minute shot from a narrow angle on the right was held by Earps.

The Blues were having plenty of the ball as the first half progressed but a resilient and disciplined United routinely shut the door when the visitors tried to find a way into the box. But our threat was clear when a potential breakaway was only defused by the recovery pace of Jess Carter as Ella Toone chased a teasing long ball forward – and it was only moments after that when Williams made it 2-0.

Toone turned creator on the left flank, winning a physical battle with Melanie Leupolz to gain control of the ball and then sending a delicious in-swinging cross into the box for our no.28 to powerfully meet with her forehead and give the diving Hannah Hampton no chance.

With the atmosphere inside Leigh Sports Village pumping, more chances came at both ends, first as Erin Cuthbert saw a shot narrowly deflected wide of the target. Then, an unmarked Williams was unable to sufficiently wrap her left foot around the ball on the half volley. James also hit the side netting after manoeuvring herself into a shooting position with silky skill on Chelsea’s left.

There was a lengthy break in play for Mayra Ramirez to receive treatment in the closing stages of the first half following a collision with Maya Le Tissier, prompting five minutes of added time, during which Chelsea pulled one back. James had already been denied by a flying Earps save from a glancing header, but there was no stopping the same player just moments later when she connected with a cut-back from Niamh Charles to finish with power around seven yards out.

The Reds led 2-1 at half-time.


The Blues started the second half brightly as they chased the game and Ramirez fired a warning when she surged towards goal from midfield, seeing her eventual shot blocked by Millie Turner. Earps was then called into action to deny James with a world class save. The header from the Chelsea forward looked destined for the goal until Mary managed to claw the ball away with a big right hand.

Earps continued to thwart the opposition as the clock edged towards the hour mark, beating away a well-struck Cuthbert shot and shortly afterwards holding one from James as she dived to her left. When the ball broke to Ramirez midway through the second half, our no.27 was there again to parry at the near post as the Colombian swung a leg at it.

With 20 minutes to play and Chelsea committing players forward, Skinner opted to switch up the front-line with fresh energy, sending on both Melvine Malard and Nikita Parris to ensure the visitors would still have to think about keeping the back door closed. That threat was soon demonstrated on the counter as Garcia pinched the ball high up the pitch and Cuthbert needed to make a vital recovery tackle at significant personal pain.

Into the final 10 minutes and Chelsea almost grabbed a fortuitous equaliser as substitute Catarina Macario looped an in-swinging corner that dropped onto the top of the crossbar and behind. At the other end, Lisa Naalsund attempted to bulldoze her way through the Chelsea defence after good work from Garcia and Malard, but was crowded out in the box.

Garcia even then had the ball in the net, only for an offside flag to dampen the celebration in the LSV stands – before laying the squaring the ball, Parris had been in an offside position when Naalsund closed down a Carter clearance. The announcement of eight minutes of added time was met by audible groans from United fans, but as the gaps opened in Chelsea’s back-line, Hampton was called into action to keep them in the tie when Parris advanced down the right and tried to find Malard in the six-yard box.

The final minutes were real backs to the wall stuff from United, resolutely defending as Chelsea desperately piled on the pressure to no avail. A last-ditch save from Earps brought about a 98th-minute corner, prompting visiting goalkeeper Hampton forward, but it came to nothing and the final whistle sparked emotional jubilation on the pitch and in the stands.

Marc Skinner's side will now have a second bite at securing a first major trophy when we face Wembley debutants Tottenham Hotspur in the final on Sunday 12 May. 

It was an incredible defensive effort from United


United: Earps; Mannion, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell; Naalsund, Zelem; Garcia, Toone (Ladd 64), Galton (Parris 70); Williams (Malard 70).

Subs not used: Tullis-Joyce, Evans, Aherne, Irene. G, Miyazawa, Geyse.

Goals: Garcia 1, Williams 23.

Booked: Turner 45+5, Garcia 68, Mannion 77, Parris 78, Earps 79.

Chelsea: Hampton; Perisset (Lawrence 81), Carter, Buchanan (Nusken 70), Charles; Cuthbert (Kirby 76), Leuploz; Rytting Kaneryd (Beever-Jones 76), James, Reiten (Macario 70); Ramirez

Subs not used: Musovic, Ingle, Hamano, Cankovic.

Goal: James 45+4.

Booked: James 45+5.