Chelsea look for Kerr to step up once more against in-form Man City


t has been only six months since Sam Kerr last lit up an FA Cup Final at Wembley, and less than six days since the Australian star last came up trumps for Chelsea with a trophy on the line.

It was Kerr’s stunning brace, including one of the great Cup Final goals, that saw off Arsenal in December, as the Blues sealed a belated domestic treble at the end of a pandemic-delayed competition.

Last weekend, she was the scourge of the Gunners once again, two more moments of genius dragging Emma Hayes’s side from behind to beat Manchester United and successfully defend the WSL title by a single point.

Hayes called the success “by far and away the best” of her reign, in part due to the absences of key players throughout the season, including Fran Kirby through illness, Pernille Harder through injury and Kerr, herself, due to international duty, but also because of the way her team have found a way to grind out the victories required to continue their domestic dominance.

No one has embodied the blend of gutsy winning knack and too-good-for-you quality quite like Kerr, who, while playing her part in swashbuckling thrashings of Reading and Leicester in recent months, has also been the player to drag Chelsea over the line in a title race where a single slip-up would have proved fatal.

She scored the crucial winners in a laboured victory over Tottenham last month and against Aston Villa, in the 92nd minute, before that.

Heading back to Wembley, for all their array of talent, it may well be some combination of Kerr’s brilliance and collective winning habit upon which the Blues have to bank as they face a Manchester City side who, despite Chelsea’s coronation, come into the game as England’s form team.

Amid an injury crisis, Gareth Taylor’s City side were out of the title race before it had really begun this season, losing three of their first four games (more than the top two would all campaign). By the time they were hammered 4-0 at home by Chelsea in November, they had taken just seven points from as many matches.

Since then, however, they have been near-perfect, winning 21 of 23 games in all competitions, the only defeat in that run — 1-0 away to Chelsea in the WSL — already avenged with a 3-1 victory in the League Cup Final in March.

It has been a remarkable turnaround, one that has secured a Champions League return and could yet see them end whatwas looking a write-off of a season with a second piece of silverware. It owes much to City’s own talismanic figure, Lauren Hemp; very much in the Kerr mould in terms of ruthless drive, if not playing style.

The fleet-footed winger, who finished third behind Kerr and Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema in the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year vote last week, has 20 goals and 10 assists this season, and the hope is that Sunday will be just the first of two trips to Wembley in the next couple of months. The 21-year-old is now firmly established as a key force in an England side gunning for a place in the European Championship Final at the national stadium on July 31.

Interest for this final has not quite reached the sell-out levels already confirmed for that game, but the Women’s FA Cup Final record attendance of 45,423 will be shattered, with more than 50,000 tickets sold by Thursday for a match that is being played on the same weekend as the men’s equivalent for the first time.

In Kerr and Hemp, it boasts two genuine match-winners at the peak of their powers.

Related Articles

Back to top button