What a glorious February day to see my first ever women’s football match, the final of The FA Women’s Continental League Cup at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United.
The sun was out, the sky was blue and there was no wind as I entered the ground. There seemed little activity at the one kiosk open in my section of the family stand and I realised why when I went up the steps to my seat. Only one side of the ground was open to fans with a smattering of officials and family members on the far side near where the teams come out and the dugouts are. The crowd was only 2424 and with concession prices at only one pound the full takings could not have been great. However there were a lot of families and and younger people than at men’s football and this must surely be a base from which to start. There were more females than males but it was not by much.
The early start of 12.15 may have made it difficult for the fans from Manchester and London to get to Sheffield and it was the Arsenal fans who seemed to have the loudest voice and used the cardboard clackers on the seats the most.
These are two of the top teams in the country and have the backing and sponsorship of their Premier League partners. Arsenal are sponsored by Emirate Airlines and Manchester City by Etihad Airways.
Each team probed in the first half and Arsenal had the upper hand with every attack prompted by the solid back four. City’s best chance came right on the stroke of half time when they tried to convert a loose ball after a headed clearance from a corner. The half ended all square but the second belonged to Manchester City. They started to overwhelm the Arsenal mid field forcing them into numerous poor passes and Arsenals forwards never got into the game. On 58 mins City hit the post and seemed to have more time on the ball and would let the ball run to create space. Arsenals forwards and mid fields inability to get into the game put more and more pressure on Arsenals back four and goalkeeper and again City hit the woodwork just before full time.
Extra time proved no different and if it was not for Leah Williamson, Louise Quinn in the centre of Arsenals defence along with goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal Manchester City would have wrapped up the game earlier. In fact these three were my outstanding players of the match.
So to penalties which Manchester City won 4-2 after both goalkeepers saved shots.
An enjoyable match that was greeted with cheers and a standing ovation from all supporters.
There were no chips available when I bought the Balti Pie which was hot on both accounts and very good. Chips eventually were ready and they were very very good. Hot tasty and fried, not oven chips, they scored an outstanding 74, but at £3 a tray with the coffee and pie at £5.50 it seemed like daylight robbery compared to the many non-league games I have attended this season.