Jackie Groenen in action against Chelsea Women

Manchester United Women 0 Chelsea Women 1

Manchester United Women missed out on a place in the Continental League Cup final after slipping to a slender semi-final defeat to Chelsea.

The magic of the cup didn't favour the Reds after a dominant performance. Instead, a goal against the run of play, from Chelsea’s Maren Mjelde, was enough to send the Blues through to the City Ground, Nottingham on 29 February.

United started the game strongly under the lights at Leigh Sports Village, controlling the majority of the possession and fashioning the first chance of the game in the seventh minute when Jackie Groenen’s surging run found Lauren James, who dragged her attempt wide of the post from outside the 18-yard-box.
Lauren James on the ball against Chelsea Women
Lauren James had a lively first half, almost opening the scoring and later getting booked.
The first shot on target came in the 25th minute after James held the ball up and won a free-kick inside the visitors' half. Katie Zelem provided the delivery into the box, aiming for the head of Abbie McManus, but the defender couldn’t trouble Carly Telford in the Chelsea goal. 

The half-hour point was marked by two cautions in two minutes. The first went to Chelsea midfielder Sophie Ingle and United’s McManus followed her into the referee’s book after a late challenge on Bethany England. The Reds' no.5 injured herself in the process and when back on her feet she was greeted by the sight of the yellow card.

The subsequent free-kick almost provided Chelsea with the lead after Guro Reiten's header called Mary Earps into action and our goalkeeper responded with a fantastic diving save to keep the scoreline level. The teams were in stalemate at half-time but United were ahead on bookings after James lunged in just before the break.
United's players started the second half with as much gusto as they did the first and couldn’t have gone much closer to scoring. A United corner venomously whipped in by Zelem found the head of McManus, but her effort whistled past the post, to the great relief of Chelsea keeper Telford who could only stand and watch.

There were shouts for a penalty from the United fans as we passed the hour mark. Jess Sigsworth’s powerful run into the opposition area was halted by what looked like a push but the referee waved play on, allowing Chelsea to counter attack. Thankfully the Blues were unable to prosper then but they would soon strike the first blow, despite United dominating the second half.

Another counter attack, led by Guro Reiten, caught out the Reds who didn’t deal with the cross into the box and Mjelde cleverly directed her shot into the net.

There was almost an instant response from United as the ball fell to Groenen in midfield and she fed the pass through to James; however, the striker couldn’t keep her shot down from close range. Casey Stoney turned to the bench in a straight swap, with Jane Ross replacing Lizzie Arnot.
Lizzie Arnot closes down an ppponent
Lizzie Arnot closes down an opponent.
United’s second substitution saw Martha Harris replace McManus at the back after the defender collided with a Chelsea forward. McManus received treatment on the pitch but was able to make her own way down the tunnel. 

The Blues started to control the game in the final few minutes and with United starting to make mistakes in defensive areas, Earps was again called into action when a Reiten effort almost doubled the lead.

Mjelde's goal eventually proved enough for Chelsea, leaving the Reds to rue a semi-final defeat for the second season in a row.
Casey Stoney
Casey Stoney's side were unfortunate to miss out on a place in the Continental League Cup final.
MATCH DETAILS

United: Earps, Smith, M.Turner, McManus (Harris 75), A. Turner, Ladd, Zelem, Groenen, Sigsworth, Arnot (Ross 70), James.

Subs not used: Mikalsen, Okvist, May.

Booked: McManus, James.

Chelsea: Telford, Blundell, Bright, Ingle, England, Reiten, Eriksson, Mjelde, Cuthbert, Spence (Murphy 90), Anderson.

Subs not used: Berger, Carter, Cooper, Napier.

Booked:
Ingle, Eriksson.

Goal: Mjelde 72.

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