James fires Chelsea through to fifth straight Conti Cup Final

Lauren James scored the only goal as Chelsea set up a re-match with Arsenal in the Continental Tyres Women’s League Cup final with a 1-0 win against Manchester City.

James kept her cool to slot Chelsea ahead in just the eighth minute and the Blues held firm in the face of some late City pressure to keep their quadruple dreams alive in Emma Hayes’ last season as manager.

City felt they should have had a penalty in the last minute when Alex Greenwood went down in the box, while Laia Alexandri had a header cleared off the line.

Chelsea will face Arsenal at Molineux on March 31 in their fifth straight Continental Tyres Women’s League Cup final, hoping to avenge their 3-1 defeat to the Gunners last year.

Fresh from beating Chelsea in the WSL just three weeks ago, City made a confident start and almost took an early lead when Lauren Hemp scampered down the left and clipped a cross in for Bunny Shaw, but her header went wide.

It did not take Chelsea long to strike. Erin Cuthbert, pressing City’s defence, intercepted a loose pass and released Mayra Ramirez, who set up James for a low shot that whistled past Khiara Keating.

Chelsea’s high press caused City problems and they nearly scored again shortly after, as Keating’s loose pass gave the ball away inside the box and Sjoeke Nusken’s shot was deflected just wide by Laura Coombs.

City worked hard to stifle Chelsea’s momentum but the Blues were on top for large parts of the first half, and almost added to their score again just before half-time when Nusken headed into the side-netting from a corner.

With just two shots on target in the first half, it was a cagey game with Chelsea content to sit back and hit City on the break. That tactic almost worked early in the second half as Cuthbert fizzed a cross into the feet of substitute striker Aggie Beever-Jones, who turned brilliantly but scuffed a shot wide.

City nearly made her pay instantly, as Shaw ran at the Chelsea defence, beat Nusken, and hit a low shot across goal that was tipped wide by Hannah Hampton.

The goalkeeper was soon at the centre of the action, as she dived low to prevent a Jess Park cross from finding an unmarked Hemp at the far post.

City turned up the wick and should have equalised just shy of the hour mark, as Shaw powered into the Chelsea box and spotted an open Hemp six yards out. However, her pass lacked the necessary pace and Eve Perisset did well to intercept at the last second.

Hampton became a magnet for the ball, with Shaw and Filippa Angeldal both directing free headers straight at her.

At the other end, Chelsea thought they should have had a penalty when James’ shot hit Alexandri’s hand but the referee waved their claims away.

City had one last chance to equalise in injury time when a corner from the right was firmly met by Alexandri but cleared off the line, before Greenwood went down under a challenge while trying to hit the rebound. The referee waved away claims and Chelsea held on.

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