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Manchester City 1 (Duggan 51) Chelsea 0
Manchester City booked their place in the Final of the Continental Cup with a hard fought 1-0 win over league leaders Chelsea at Ewen Fields, Hyde.
A solitary Toni Duggan strike on 51 minutes earned the victory for Nick Cushing's side who made history, setting up the Club's first ever cup final.
Having lost twice to the London outfit already this season, the hosts were desperate for revenge and backed by a vocal following, produced a superb performance to down the visitors - particularly in the second half. It was a thoroughly impressive display mirroring a fine cup run, which saw City top the table in the group stage notching 12 points from a possible 15.
It was clear both sides had their eyes firmly on the prize from the off and the opening exchanges were fast paced with plenty of chances. The first real opportunity of the afternoon arrived on eleven minutes as Natasha Flint latched on to a stray back pass before rounding the goalkeeper. With no support, the youngster had to try a shot from a tight angle but fired her effort agonisingly into the side netting.
Chelsea responded well as Eniola Aluko - the Blues' main threat - saw a shot deflected wide, before Duggan cut inside well only to drill the ball just the wrong side of the post. Aluko fired off target again on a rare occasion when the visitors penetrated the hosts' defence. Throughout the first half, City worked tirelessly to win back possession. Kathleen Radtke slid in with some timely challenges, while Duggan, Jill Scott and Krystle Johnston tracked back well from midfield to regain the ball.
After a flurry of end-to-end action, Chelsea gained a foothold in the game and looked comfortable in possession for long spells without really testing Karen Bardsley. Ji So-Yun curled a free kick wide as the home side conceded a number of kicks but it was City who were creating the better chances.
Betsy Hassett's first time effort flew wide before Flint was played through and shot straight at Marie Hourihan. Duggan's header then suffered the same fate from Issy Christiansen's floated cross as the hosts pressed forward towards the end of the half. Despite the pressure, City could not find the back of the net and both sides went in level at the break.
The home side continued where they left off after the restart and should have broken the deadlock when Flint was played through by Johnston. The youngster rounded the goalkeeper once again, only for her effort to hit the post.
Minutes later though, Cushing's side deservedly took the lead. It was more hard work from Duggan that created the chance, as the striker picked up on a loose ball before firing an effort past Hourihan and into the bottom corner. The resulting celebrations cemented just how much it meant to the players.
With the lead, City were in complete control and sought to extend it, as Duggan hit the post before Scott's effort was deflected wide. The hosts also defended resiliently, retaining the ball with some intricate passages of play so the visitors were restricted to half chances as the game entered its final minutes.
Substitute Hannah Blundell blazed over before Aluko's header was plucked out of the air by Bardsley but in truth, once City had taken the lead, they never looked like relinquishing it. Johnston fired into the side netting in a nervy five minutes of injury time but a single goal proved enough as City hung on for an historic victory to set up a mouthwatering final against Arsenal.
Manchester City: Karen Bardsley, Abbie McManus, Emma Lipman, Betsy Hassett, Steph Houghton, Kathleen Radtke, Krystle Johnston, Jill Scott, Toni Duggan, Natasha Flint (sub Emma Kete 88mins), Issy Christiansen. Subs not used: Alex Brooks, Chelsea Nightingale, Keira Walsh, Georgia Brougham, Nicki Harding, Danielle Young.
Chelsea: Marie Hourihan; Ana Marques Borges (sub Jackie Groenen 63mins), Claire Rafferty, Katie Chapman, Gilly Flaherty, Emma Wilhelmsson, Yuki Ogimi, Drew Spence (sub Laura Bassett 45mins), Eniola Aluko, Ji So-Yun, Danielle Buet (sub Hannah Blundell 74mins). Subs not used: Cristiane Endler, Laura Coombs, Anne Meiwald, Rosella Ayane.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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