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Fran Kirby was today announced as the SSE Women's FA Cup Player of the Round following her game changing introduction off the bench that brought Chelsea back from the brink in their semi final match against Manchester City on Sunday 17th April.
Holders Chelsea faced their toughest test of the competition so far as high flying Manchester City arrived at Wheatsheaf Park, determined to reach the Wembley showcase for the first time in the club's history. Yet thanks to Kirby's late strike, it was Chelsea who went through to the Final, setting up a mouthwatering all-London tie against fierce rivals Arsenal.
In front of a raucous crowd, the match came to life midway through the second half when City's Jane Ross tapped home from close range. It was the spark Chelsea needed and manager Emma Hayes brought on England's Fran Kirby, a change that instantly made the difference as her darting runs caused panic in the City defence. Gilly Flaherty was then brought down on the edge of the box and Ji So-Yun expertly tucked away the resulting free kick to draw Chelsea level and send the game into extra time.
Despite both sides going close in extra time, the match seemed destined for penalties - until Kirby popped up with a dramatic late winner. Put through on goal, Kirby slalomed past two City defenders and smashed the ball past Karen Bardsley, sending Chelsea into their second consecutive SSE Women's FA Cup Final with almost the last kick of the game.
Kirby - who was ineligible to play for Chelsea in last year's Final - is delighted to have helped the side reach Wembley for the second year running and is hopeful they can retain the famous trophy against London rivals Arsenal on May 14th.
"It's great to win the award, it was an amazing end to match," she said. "City are obviously a top side so to beat them and reach the SSE Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley is really special and I'm sure we are good enough to lift the trophy again."
The award is a brand new initiative for the SSE Women's FA Cup, rewarding exceptional performances in each round of the competition and recognising the talent in the women's game.
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