The SSE Women’s FA Cup final was won for the first time by Manchester City last weekend in front of over 35,000 fans. Their 4 -1 win over Birmingham City underlined City’s domestic dominance as they now hold all 3 trophies. City’s win will claim all the headlines but the bigger picture and story is how
much this event has grown and how it’s now firmly a highlight of the women’s sporting calendar.
When Sports International first covered a Women’s Cup Final back in 2013 just over 4,000 fans attended the final at Doncaster. Now fast forward just 4
short years and the growth in the game has been nothing short of sensational. This was the 3rd year the final has been held at the home
of football and in all 3 finals the crowd has topped 30,000 and been screened live on terrestrial TV.
Back in 2013 Manchester City had only just been granted an FAWSL 1 licence. Now they have a squad full of not only England internationals but also the
2 time player of the year Carli Lloyd. Earlier in the year they reached the semi finals if the UEFA Woman’s Champions League and won the FAWSL going
undefeated. It’s been quite the journey.
Birmingham are a team in transition. They have always been known for being tough to beat and like to get the ball forward quickly. That style is changing
under new coach Marc Skinner though, as he is trying to get Birmingham playing more passing football rather than the long game. It was obvious early
on in the final that Blues weren’t going to just sit back as both sides went for it early and created half chances, but it was Manchester City that
struck first. A free kick was swung into the near post and Lucy Bronze brushed off her marker to head home from close range on 18 minutes. Birmingham
were rocked by this and although they tried to rally soon found themselves 2 down when Isobel Christiansen volleyed home from just outside the box.
The game was as good as over as a contest on 30 minutes when Lloyd headed home a cross following a short corner routine that Blue’s keeper Ann-Katrin
Berger really should have got a hand to.
Birmingham could easily have buckled in the second half but to their credit they fought on and got a goal back through a fine strike from substitute Charlie
Wellings, and for a short while they had Manchester City on the back foot. However Jill Scott restored the 3 goal lead after finishing a good team
move, and the cup was heading to Manchester.
It would now appear that Manchester City are the dominating force in the game at present, though this domination is something manager Nick Cushing’s isn’t
taking for granted.
“The WSL is exceptionally competitive, that’s why I enjoy this job so much and you are never ever going to turn up to a game and just roll teams over”
he said when asked if his sides dominance could be bad for the game in England. “People ask me about dominating the WSL and I don’t feel it, I still
don’t feel it. At 3-1 today I still thought there was a chance we could play extra time because of the competiveness of women’s football in this country”.
This Manchester City team has been 3 years in the making but for Birmingham this is only the start of their journey as manager Marc Skinner alluded to
“This is a really big moment for a young group and its one that they will only learn from and there are much more positive times coming ahead, I know where
we are going and what we have to do get there. We are trying to change our style we are trying to evolve and we will be back”
All in all it was a great advert for the game and one that Sports International was proud to attend. Same time next year?