The in-game changes that won Chelsea the 2023 Women's FA Cup final

Chelsea were second best for almost an hour against Man Utd
Chelsea were second best for almost an hour against Man Utd / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert admitted she wasn’t able to do the ‘best part’ of her game in the Women’s FA Cup final against Manchester United, until tactical tweaks and substitutions nudged the game in their favour and contributed to the hard fought 1-0 win.

United had been the better team in the opening 45 minutes but were unable to take a number of opportunities that fell to the likes of Millie Turner and Leah Galton. Alessia Russo also spurned a great chance towards the end of the game.

But, early in the second half, Blues boss Emma Hayes tweaked things when brought on both Pernille Harder and Sophie Ingle. The system moved from 4-2-3-1 to something more akin to 4-4-2, with Harder supporting Sam Kerr and ultimately changing the game with her runs into inside channels.

It was that kind of movement that got created Kerr’s winning goal and made other Chelsea chances.

“We’re used to absorbing pressure in different games and have European experience,” Cuthbert said.

“We know what to expect and we know that football can so change so quickly and is all about momentum – we just needed one moment in the game and when we got that goal we were thoroughly the better side. We started to control the game and managed the time really well.

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“During the second half we made some tactical adjustments in the formation. [United] were exploiting our spaces a bit too much [in the first half]. Ella Toone was having the freedom of the pitch to get on the ball, so we had to be a bit more compact and narrower. It allowed us to get pressure and allowed me to be more aggressive, get closer [to the ball] and actually put in a tackle because the first half felt that was so far away, I couldn’t do the best part of my game.”

Reflecting on the instructions given to her when she arrived into the match with Harder, Ingle said it was a case of coming on and being ‘calm’.

“[United] were definitely fresher [in the first half], we showed that in the way we were pressing because we were off it a little bit,” the Wales international added.

“Pernille Harder was a great addition for us and has the legs to run in behind – I think that’s what we were lacking in the first half. Sam would come deep and win a flick-on, but there was no one actually getting on the end of it.”

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