“Where players enter and legends leave” reads the small red sign separating the dugouts from the pitch at Wembley Stadium, and it was Manchester City Women’s stars who left as legends after winning the SSE Women’s FA Cup for the first time.
Running out 4-1 winners thanks to goals in the first half from Lucy Bronze, Izzy Christiansen and Carli Lloyd plus Jill Scott’s late goal, Nick Cushing’s side now hold all three domestic titles to their name after a dominant display at Wembley.
Birmingham City, under new manager Marc Skinner, simply weren’t at the races and only had a consolation from substitute Charlie Wellings to cheer in the second half. Manchester City’s combination play down either flank undid Birmingham’s back three with ease and it took just 18 minutes for Bronze to open the scoring.
A free-kick from the right from Megan Campbell was headed home by the right back who continues to pop up with big goals at big moments, her third in three games against Birmingham.
In front of a 35,000 strong crowd, the FA Women’s Super League champions soon asserted their dominance on the game, former Birmingham player Christiansen sweeping home the second shortly after thanks to more good work from Bronze down the right, this time the defender having to settle for an assist.
Just after the half hour mark it was three when another inch perfect ball in from Campbell was headed home by Carli Lloyd, her first goal for City on English soil since joining in the winter.
As Birmingham continued to struggle to cope with Manchester City’s blistering pace out wide, there was no change of system from Skinner at the break, but the champions soon introduced Tuesday’s hat-trick hero Toni Duggan to the match in place of ex-Blue Melissa Lawley.
But it was Birmingham’s substitute who made a quick impact, Charlie Wellings slid home a lovely finish with her left foot after some good work down the right hand side from fellow youngster Ellie Brazil.
The goal only sparked Manchester City back into life, a clinical counter attack ended with Duggan crossing for Jill Scott, who promptly did the rest with a powerful finish which Berger could do little about.
There was precious little more to occur in the final five minutes as Nick Cushing’s finally picked up the trophy they’ve been waiting for since 2014.
“It was a nice bonus to get back on the grass with the girls and help the team get the FA Cup trophy today.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win any trophy but to win three is special, this is a special team. We know we’ll continue to go places if we play like this but we’re not stopping now because we’ve still got the Spring Series to focus on.
“I’m gutted to concede a goal, that’s just a personal thing but the victory is sweet and if I can contribute in any way then that’s great because that’s what I’m there to do.
“I just wanted to be in the squad, when Nick named the team yesterday my heart nearly dropped, I didn’t expect it at all but I know he had full faith in me and going out there in front of 35,000 was an incredible experience.”
“We had a plan but Manchester City were clinical and fair play to them, that’s what they’ve built. We’re disappointed we let them get so far ahead, we showed a bit more of ourselves in the second half but the game was already done at that point.
“The second half performance from us was for our fans, we said at half-time the press would write what they would write, how do you want to be remembered for this final?
“We’ve been resolute at the back but we’re trying to evolve and change our style, we’ve got to get a balance and we’re working on that.
“I can only look at what I’ve got, we have human resources here. I’m a coach, I look at my people and I think we can maximise the potential of our young players. Who’s the next Steph Houghton? Who’s the next Jill Scott? If I can’t buy them, I need to create them.”
Manchester City (4-3-3): Karen Bardsley; Lucy Bronze; Steph Houghton, Megan Campbell (McManus 78), Demi Stokes; Keira Walsh, Jill Scott, Izzy Christiansen; Nikita Parris (Stanway 71), Carli Lloyd, Melissa Lawley (Duggan 56)
Substitutes not used: Marie Hourihan, Jennifer Beattie
Birmingham City (3-4-1-2): Ann-Katrin Berger; Meaghan Sargeant, Aoife Mannion, Kerys Harrop; Sarah Mayling, Jess Carter, Andrine Hegerberg (Peplow 83), Paige Williams (Stringer 88); Ellen White; Freda Ayisi (Wellings 64), Ellie Brazil
Substitutes not used: Sophie Baggaley, Emily Westwood
Referee: Rebecca Welch