Manchester City edge out Leicester in Women’s FA Cup as Chelsea are stunned | Football

Manchester City, the holders, saw off the challenge of a new-look full-time Leicester to set up a semi‑final against the 14-times winners Arsenal on Thursday night. The winner of that one will be odds‑on favourite to lift the FA Cup after Emma Hayes’s all-star Chelsea side were stunned by Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.

There, the French forward Valérie Gauvin, who joined from Montpellier in the summer, scored the winner as Everton recovered from Erin Cuthbert’s early goal, their first coming from a Lucy Graham header, to set up a semi-final with Birmingham.

With their new manager, Carla Ward, in place following the departure of Marta Tejedor, Birmingham beat Brighton 4-2 on penalties after the Republic of Ireland forward Denise O’Sullivan, on loan at Brighton from North Carolina Courage, levelled the score at 2-2 in the 90th minute.

Cup upsets in women’s football are rare and getting rarer. Occasionally, at best, a mid-table Super League side may get the better of one of the division’s top sides, as Everton demonstrated on Sunday, but teams below the fully professional top flight just do not stand a chance.

For Leicester, the odds were marginally better than usual. Over the summer, freshly under the wing of King Power, the Championship team went fully professional and recruited 13 new players. Inadvertently thwarting their ambitions of defeating Manchester City, however, was the rule that only six new recruits could be registered for the rescheduled tournament’s close.

“Every club in the transfer window has different parameters and different requirements,” their manager, Jonathan Morgan, said in midweek. “Our requirements were that we went full-time. That means we had to do a bigger overhaul of players.” While a more moderately strengthened City were untroubled by the rule, Morgan had to pick and choose who would be in contention.

One player who took a step down to rejoin her childhood club, the former Reading midfielder Remi Allen, shone at Quorn FC’s stadium on Sunday. Despite the difficult task facing them, she hoped to pass on her experience of being involved in a major upset to lift her team.

“When I was at Birmingham we beat Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, over two legs,” she said. “We were very, very, very much the underdogs. They had Kelly Smith playing for them, the big, big guns, and I think it’s just having that real togetherness, that real fight and that real desire.”

With Allen captaining Leicester in the absence of Holly Morgan, that attitude showed in the first 35 minutes, when Leicester nipped at the heels of their opponents, pressing hard whenever out of possession.



Remi Allen and Sam Tierney of Leicester crowd out Caroline Weir as the Championship side run Manchester City close. Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City FC/Getty Images

Unfortunately that aggression seemingly opened the door for City on the windswept 4G pitch from which rubber crumbs flew into the air with every bounce and roll of the ball. They took the lead after a pass played into the feet of Georgia Stanway in the centre of the box ended in a tangle in which she fell to the ground. The winger Chloe Kelly smashed in the soft penalty.

Ten minutes later City doubled their lead when Ellen White headed into the path of Stanway, who lofted the ball over the goalkeeper Demi Lambourne.

Leicester, though, could find solace in the fact that they then not only held strong, but they also pulled a goal back. After Millie Farrow was fouled in the box, the former Arsenal and Manchester United forward Charlie Devlin scored from the penalty spot.

The Manchester City manager, Gareth Taylor, was unsurprised by their opponents’ tenacity. “I watched them play twice already this season,” he said. “They were very emphatic here against Blackpool. I also saw them play away at Sheffield, they scored very late, they never give up.”

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For Leicester’s WSL ambitions they can take heart from having gone toe to toe with the elite and not looking out of place.

“I’m just really proud,” said Morgan. “You look at their squad and think ‘wow’. We are aiming to be like them one day but in terms of the short and medium term we want to get promoted into that league at some point.”


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