The Citizens and the Hammers are gearing up for the biggest game in the domestic calendar, but who will come out on top?
The SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2019, Saturday 4 May, 5.30pm, BBC One HD (CH 101/108). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up > Channels > BBC iPlayer
Some used to view Women’s football as a poor relation to its mass, multimillionaire-making men’s counterpart – but not anymore! The record attendance of 45,423 in last year’s Women’s FA Cup is proof of just how popular the sport is becoming. And this year’s final featuring Manchester City and West Ham should be the competition’s biggest yet!
Although attendance is on the up, there’s still a ways to go to catch up with our European counterparts. In fact, just last month in Spain, more than 60,000 people packed into Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to watch the home side face Barcelona – the biggest ever attendance for a women’s domestic game.
Of course, women’s football has always been popular. The previous biggest crowd was recorded in 1920 when Dick, Kerr Ladies FC took on St Helens Ladies. Some 53,000 people squeezed into Everton’s Goodison Park stadium, with thousands more locked outside the gates. Disappointingly, the Football Association banned women’s football from its clubs’ grounds in 1921. The decision wasn’t overturned until 1971, meaning women’s football was forced to play out in much smaller venues.
But women’s football came back in a big way, particularly on the national stage with the recent success of the Lionesses. The England women’s national football team triumphed in the SheBelieves Cup in in March, and are gearing up to deliver another winning performance at next year’s World Cup finals.
Get up to speed on the two sides competing in the Women’s FA Cup final live on BBC One, with our match pack below.
At a glance
Manchester City, one of the standout teams at the top of the Women’s Super League, start as huge favourites, while West Ham are sitting snugly in mid-table in their first season in the women’s top flight. Whoever ends up lifting the cup, they will certainly feel like they’ve gone about it the hard way. Both sets of supporters’ nerves were shredded after the nail-biting semi-finals. City triumphed against Chelsea thanks to a last-minute own goal that gave them a 1-0 win, while West Ham required a penalty shoot-out to overcome Reading after a 1-1 draw. Manchester City are going for their second FA Cup, having triumphed over Birmingham in 2017, while West Ham have never got to this stage of the competition before.
Neither side has any major injury concerns at this stage, and will no doubt be wrapping their star players in cotton wool to ensure things remain that way before the match.
Road to the final
Semi-final: Chelsea (h) 1-0
Quarter-final: Liverpool (h) 3-0
Fifth round proper: Tottenham Hotspur (a) 3-0
Fourth round proper: Watford FC (h) 3-0
Semi-final: Reading (a) 1-1 (won on penalties)
Quarter-final: Aston Villa (a) 1-0
Fifth round proper: Huddersfield (h) 8-1
Fourth round proper: Blackburn Rovers (h) 3-1
Ones to watch
City striker Nikita Parris has been on fire this season (18 goals in 18 games in the league, putting her just behind Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema, who has 20, in the race for the golden boot) while centre-back and fellow England international Steph Houghton is the heart at the centre of the side, as she captains both club and country. Houghton joined from Arsenal in 2014 and also has the prestigious honour of being the first woman to grace the cover of football magazine Shoot.
The Hammers boast Swiss international striker Alisha Lehmann in their ranks. Although she’s only managed six goals this campaign, she’s played a big part on their route to the final, particularly after scoring in the semis. Scottish international striker Jane Ross meanwhile will also have a point to prove, having signed for the Hammers from their cup final opponents last year.
West Ham are managed by ex-Chelsea and Liverpool boss Matt Beard, who was most recently managing Boston Breakers in America. During his time with Liverpool he was named manager of the year twice, in 2013 and 2014. Speaking shortly after his side secured their spot at Wembley, he admitted they’d rode their luck a bit against Reading, saying: “Sometimes maybe it’s just your day! The main thing is we’re there. It doesn’t matter how you get there so long as you do!”
Manchester City are managed by Nick Cushing in his first senior role in football, having worked his way up through various coaching roles before becoming boss in 2013. After the semi-final, he took stock of his season, saying: “I’m proud that it’s the sixth straight season that we’re still playing for everything, come April we’re still playing for trophies. This year, we’ve won the continental cup and qualified for a Champions League place, and now we have the opportunity to try and win the FA Cup.”
With West Ham in their debut season in the women’s top flight, the two sides don’t have a huge back catalogue of previous meetings. That’s probably just as well for the Hammers, as their aggregate score with Man City this season stands at 10-2 against them, with the Citizens winning 3-1 away and 7-1 at home.
Did you know?
West Ham’s managing director is Jack Sullivan. The 19-year-old is the son of West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, and is also the subject of a BBC Three documentary – Britain’s Youngest Football Boss.
Manchester City first played in the Women’s Super League in 2014. This followed a huge restructuring aimed at bringing them more in line with the men’s side in terms of training facilities. But perhaps more importantly, it gave them greater access to the huge pots of cash provided by their Qatari owners. City’s women then announced their intentions by making a number of marquee signings that summer, and have been one of the top women’s sides in the country ever since.
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