Irons come out fighting
A far cry from the newly formed team who travelled to Manchester earlier in the season and were soundly beaten 7-1, West Ham were keen to show their development on the biggest domestic stage. With a touch of luck needed to get them through the semi-final against Reading [and ultimately prevailing on penalties], the Hammers lead with their best foot at Wembley.
The defence saved their best for the hallowed turf, not just connecting with each other as if they had been playing for years, but finding that all important timing to steal the ball away from the attacking Citizens too. Ria Percival showed her fluidity, drifting from the midfield with Kate Longhurst, to the back line to clear when needed. As the first half wore on, it was those in claret and blue who threatened, having found the key to unlock the congested midfield, Jane Ross and Adriana Leon with balls to attack.
Walsh breaks the deadlock
Having failed to take their chances – a fine save enough for Karen Bardsley to deny Ross – in the first half, the Hammers were caught cold after the break when City came out strong. A hopeful shot from Kiera Walsh from range enough to separate the two early in the second half, her shot skipping off of the turf ahead of Anna Moorhouse to leave the goalkeeper grasping at air. The dogged work of the first half combined with their early concession enough to take sting out of West Ham, bodies visibly tiring soon after the hour.
City’s second goal enough to put the match to bed after the introduction of Leanne Kiernan gave the Irons a renewed threat. Skipping through the defence, Georgia Stanway threaded the ball through, weaving it through the two defenders who fell in front of her, pulling it across the box and finding the bottom corner. The third an uppercut to lay the visitors out, Moorhouse steaming out of her box and second to the ball, the fresh legs of Lauren Hemp too much. The substitute clipping the ball over the goalkeeper and angling it into the net with one touch.
A successful season
For a Man City team who never quite hit top gear – at Wembley – or over the WSL season and fell short of the title, there is plenty of comfort to be taken in wrapping up a cup double. The team still a growing entity that adjusts and evolves each season, sometimes upwards, sometimes sideways.
For a West Ham team new to the league, expectations were surpassed by making it to the final, the match a perfect example of how far they’ve come but how far they still need to go. The result not the one they would have wanted, the goals preventable but the good performances of the team, notably in the first half, shouldn’t be overlooked.
On the day it was Percival who impressed across the pitch, the defender the first New Zealander to play in an FA Cup final at Wembley. Her work rate commendable, so too her contributions in defence and attack. For the Citizens, it was Stanway, the young English international who did her bit to dazzle, her goal deserved for her energy and desire to take players on.