The heads of Sam Mewis and Valerie Gauvin highlighted the 50th Vitality Women’s FA Cup final with their towering presences in the box leaving the match level at full time and forcing extra time where Georgia Stanway and Janine Beckie secured Manchester City’s third FA Cup trophy over Everton.
Mewis’ bullet-header opened the scoring 40 minutes into the final from a brilliant curling corner by Alex Greenwood to the penalty spot, but it was cancelled out by an inevitable Gauvin header 15 minutes into the second half.
Stanway poked City into the lead 21 minutes into extra-time after Jess Park threaded the ball past the Everton defence for the striker to poke the ball around Sandy MacIver, off the post and into the back of the net.
Beckie sealed the win in the last second of the match after passing the ball past MacIver and into the back post a minute after the keeper found herself in Ellie Roebuck's box looking to get the match-winner off a last minute Everton corner.
Stanway scored in her second consecutive FA Cup final to see Gareth Taylor lift the trophy in his first season in charge after taking over for Nick Cushing who left City in fifth round.
Although she conceded three goals, MacIver won player of the match after keeping Everton in contention for the trophy throughout the match with brilliant saves.
Story of the match
Manchester City started dominant in possession without many critical opportunities in front of net and Everton were waiting to pounce on the attack after dispossessing City high up the pitch.
Gauvin’s first header went well wide of the goal in the 34 minute. Everton’s clearest opportunity came after a freekick just outside the box hit off the wall after Lucy Bronze took down Haley Raso.
Chloe Kelly seemed to be the main target for City as Steph Houghton always played out through the right, trying to find the former Everton winger in space, but Danielle Turner did well to keep Kelly quiet.
Ellen White was quiet inbetween the central defenders, with her only attempt on goal adjudged to be offside. It was Kelly and Mewis who had the best chances for the Citizens with shots on the border of the box.
Bronze and Raso were battling it out on the left wing, but the fight settled after both found themselves on a yellow card. Raso was a huge attacking presence for the Toffees battling every ball.
City ended the first half with 70% possession and Everton managed no shots on target, but the match was still up for grabs for either side.
The second half started with a strong Everton side pushing for an early equaliser, though with their strongest attacker not at her best after a Houghton tackle left her limping back into the dressing room at half time.
Manchester City found themselves in an optimal position to double their lead after Caroline Weir's low shot from the left bounced off the far post and landed at Kelly’s feet at the penalty spot, but four Everton bodies deflected the shot off target.
One of the most anticipated moments of this final happened and Izzy Christiansen found the head of the French striker with a curling corner to the front post where Gauvin deflected the ball into the back of the net in between the fists of Roebuck and a jumping Demi Stokes.
Stanway and Jess Park were brought on for attacking reinforcements, but after Everton’s equaliser, City failed to make any critical plays against a passionate Everton side who pressed any blue player who possessed the ball.
Mewis and Kelly had two clear opportunities from shots at the edge of the box from both fired well high of the goal, while Everton were unable to keep much possession of the ball once they crossed the halfway line into City’s half.
Weir found herself in a position to give City the win in the final minutes of regular time after her curling shot pinged off the crossbar and out for a corner in the five minutes into injury time.
An Everton breakaway just 30 seconds later saw Everton awarded a corner kick where their last effort to steal the Cup from City was headed wide from the second post and the scores finished level at the end of regular time forcing extra time at Wembley.
City came out dominant in the first half of extra time with Stanway getting a shot just outside the box that was deflected, but always going wide of the far post.
Stanway nearly got an easy tap-in after poking the ball past MacIver at the edge of the box, but Megan Finnigan nipped the ball off the City defender before she was able to get a shot on the empty goal.
Houghton nearly put City ahead if it wasn’t for MacIver who tipped the captain’s header with her fingertips onto the far post in the last minute of the first extra time half.
Everton were holding on by a thread, unable to get many chances to settle the match in their favour for the entirety of extra time.
But it was a brilliant ball from Park that left Stanway sliding for the ball against MacIver to poke City into the lead twenty minutes into extra time.
Shortly after, MacIver found herself in the opposition box looking to help her side on the other half of the pitch from a late Everton corner kick and nearly got the chance after trying to pull off a bicycle kick pass to get the ball into the box, but didn’t manage and the ball went for an easy City clearance.
With just seconds to go, Beckie capitalised on an out-of-position Everton and found herself one on one with MacIver and tucked the ball past the player of the match into the far post to seal victory for Manchester City.
Everton have had an impressive start to their season, staying undefeated in the first five league games, and sit five points above City in the table, but it wasn't enough to match up to a side who's used to showing up in big games.
City simply dominated the match, yet Everton managed to see out full time with the scores still level. There was barely any doubt that Gareth Taylor's side were going to come away with the win after his side had chance after chance to bury the game.
Willie Kirk's side barely kept possession in the opposition half with most of their dangerous plays coming from set pieces and rare breakthroughs. Everton lack the big attacking presence seen in other clubs, but they can only grow and learn from just their second defeat of the season in all competitions. Both defeats came against Manchester City.
Sandy MacIver received player of the match after being Everton's best player on the pitch keeping her side in the game until late in the game. Notably busier than Roebuck, she made crucial saves after a dominant City side were often left lurking.
Her quick reaction time proved crucial to save Houghton's header and Kelly's close range shot, but Everton lacked the same intensity on the other half of the pitch to compliment the keeper's game.
"For me she's England's number one" commented Willie Kirk after the game.