Chelsea 3 Manchester United Women 1
Manchester United were beaten 3-1 as our Continental Tyres League Cup run ended with a semi-final defeat to Chelsea.
All the goals came in the first half at Kingsmeadow, with Pernille Harder and Jessie Fleming putting the hosts 2-0 up before Vilde Boe Risa pulled one back, though Jessica Carter struck a third soon after.
The result also ends what had been an impressive run of seven wins in a row in all competitions for the Reds without conceding a goal.
The hosts nearly carved out an early chance with a quick passing move involving Guro Reiten, Jessie Fleming and Pernille Harder. Having worked the ball to the edge of the box, Harder might have unleashed a shot if it wasn’t for the quick intervention of Maria Thorisdottir, who closed down the attacker leaving Sophie Baggaley to gather the ball easily.
At the other end a Katie Zelem free-kick initially caused a bit of trouble for the Blues defence and following a panicked clearance United recycled possession. Vilde Boe Risa then hooked the ball over her head from inside the area and picked out Martha Thomas, who could only head straight at the keeper.
The Reds enjoyed a strong few minutes following that chance, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. Harder then led a charging break before firing over from the edge of the 18-yard-box.
With 25 minutes on the clock, another counterattack saw Harder racing away having latched onto a ball over the top. Running at Aoife Mannion, Harder then showed expert composure to round her and slot the ball past United stopper Baggaley for 1-0.
Five minutes later Emma Hayes’ side had doubled their lead. Play had been stopped for a head injury to Zelem with Chelsea in possession high up the field, but the uncontested drop ball to restart left Niamh Charles free to fire a ball across goal. After a deflected shot the ball dropped unkindly for the Reds, allowing Fleming to score from close range.
Not allowing themselves to be sunk by letting in a second, United had one back within a minute when a deft Jackie Groenen backheel played Boe Risa in-behind and the Norwegian slotted a curling effort in from a tight angle to reduce the deficit to one.
Sadly another Chelsea goal would come before the interval. Reiten slid a low cross into the path of the fast-arriving Jessica Carter who duly converted.
Following a battling start to the second 45, Alessia Russo saw a chance go begging. The Chelsea defence had failed to deal with a cross from Zelem and Russo was able to unleash a left-footed effort from deep inside the area. Sadly however, her shot went wide to the right of goal.
The game remained open as it had been since the kick-off, but neither the Reds or Chelsea could add to the scoresheet early in the second period. In a bid to change that Marc Skinner made a couple changes, including introducing deadline day signing Signe Bruun for her United debut.
With around quarter of an hour to go, the Reds were reduced to 10. Blues sub Sam Kerr won a foot race in a 1-on-1 and got to the ball fractionally ahead of Baggaley before the two collided. The referee deemed the incident to be foul and gave Baggaley her marching orders.
From the resulting free-kick, Harder was hoping to add a second to her goal tally from a dangerous area. Debutant Bruun did an excellent job on the end of the wall to deny her, heading her chance away from danger.
Blues captain Millie Bright might have added another late on when the ball dropped to her in the area, but she lashed her shot into the stand from an area where she might have expected to hit the target.
With the extra player the hosts were able to close out the game in stoppage time, leaving United having to wait another year to get the chance to lift the Continental Cup.
Chelsea: Musovic; Carter, Bright, Nouwen; Charles, Ingle, Andersson (Spence 85), Reiten (Abdullina 89); Cuthbert, Fleming (Kerr 68); Harder (James 85).
Subs not used: Berger, Claypole, Kirby, Thompson.
Goals: Harder 26, Fleming 31, Carter 39.
United: Baggaley; Batlle, Thorisdottir, Mannion, Blundell; Groenen (F. Fuso 67), Zelem, Boe Risa; Thomas (Bruun 67), Russo (Earps 80), Galton.
Subs not used: Harris, Caldwell, Hanson, Smith, Jones.
Goal: Boe Risa 32.
Red card: Baggaley.