Five Australians were involved in the Women’s FA Cup Final last night. Chelsea’s comprehensive 3-0 win meant that two of them came away victorious.
This was billed as a match of the highest calibre. Over 40,000 fans filled the iconic stadium to watch the Final contested between England’s top two sides.
Of the top 11 players in the world as ranked by the Ballon D’or judges, seven played in this match. Arsenal’s Aussie contingent was made up of Steph Catley, Lydia Williams and Caitlin Foord.
Chelsea boast Matildas skipper Sam Kerr up front and West Australian Tanya Oxtoby as an assistant coach.
Only Catley and Kerr started for their sides and they were almost directly opposed. It was defender against attacker, the Australian captain against the vice captain. Two stars of the national team battled it out on one of the biggest stages in world football.
It had been a difficult lead up to the game for both players. The Matildas played two games last week. All four players featured in those matches and had to face a travel and training schedule that Foord described as “extremely tough”.
Kerr was confirmed to have picked up an illness in transit. She had been unable to train fully before the first USA game, but managed 90 minutes in the second. After playing the world’s top ranked nation twice in four days, they had to fly back to London and prepare for the FA Cup Final.
Before the match, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said that Kerr would be unable to fully train. Recovery from the last week and avoiding the effects of jet lag were the priority.
More Football News
There were more than just fitness queries about Kerr pre-game. She has been in fine form for Chelsea and finished third in the Ballon D’or, but that magic touch had evaded her at Wembley so far.
Notoriously, as her career began in England, she missed a series of easy chances in the Community Shield. Chelsea was victorious that day, but the knives were instantly out for Kerr.
At that point, she was the highest paid female footballer in the world, and expectations were high. In that one game, they were not met.
The signs looked ominous early for all the Aussies. Fran Kirby put Chelsea ahead and Catley, Foord and Williams’ side were under immediate pressure. Kerr missed a clear chance to extend the lead, with a shot crashing off the bar.
The notion that Wembley might be her kryptonite looked like a possible headline.
What happened next was an answer to the critics of 2020 and a reminder that being the third best player in the world is still better than millions of other footballers.
“So many wondered how Sam Kerr would cope in the English game,” Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said post-match.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s the best striker in the world.”
A goal worthy of the occasion
Kerr’s first goal was a typical finish from the Perth born superstar.
Racing onto a long pass down the wing, Kerr outmuscled Jen Beattie, cut inside from the left and shot into the near corner with her right foot.
It was vindication. For Kerr after missing previous chances, for Hayes for starting an exhausted striker and for Chelsea after losing to Arsenal earlier in the season.
Her next goal, brought up her brace and sealed the game in the 78th minute.
In a case of Matilda on Matilda violence, Kerr found herself one on one against Steph Catley. Two of Australia’s very best players, face to face in the FA Cup Final with the eyes of the world on them.
Kerr’s finish had her international team mate shaking her head in disbelief. Kerr would normally cut wide and go for power, she might even shape to cross the ball.
Instead, she paused, composed herself and audaciously chipped the ball over the Arsenal defence and goalkeeper.
It was as good a goal as she has ever scored and one fitting to win the FA Cup final.
Foord was introduced by Arsenal in an attempt to salvage the game, but it was too little too late for the Gunners.
The match itself was a significant one in the history of English football. It was the 50th Women’s FA Cup and marked 100 years since women were banned from football.
It was a celebration of the game, a significant achievement for all the Aussies involved, and Kerr supplied the fireworks.
Subscribe to our newsletter!