4 key observations from FA Women's Cup quarter-finals
After acrimonious weather conditions, the Women’s FA Cup quarter-final contests finally went ahead on Sunday. Four teams remain from 276 that began the grinding trip to Wembley. They are Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and Everton.
Chelsea was first to reach the last four, bashing Liverpool 3-0 last week. Merseyside was painted blue by goals from Jonna Andersson, Maren Mjelde, and Katie Chapman.
Cross-city rivals Everton intensified the hue, offering further agony to the Reds with an even more commanding 6-1 victory over Durham Women at New Ferens Park. Strikes from Olivia Chance, Danielle Turner and Jodie Brett added to a hat-trick from Courtney Sweetman-Kirk. The Toffees were too much for the WSL 2 side, booking their semi-final date with Arsenal.
The Gunners showed no sympathy for third-tier Charlton Athletic. Heather O'Reilly, Vivianne Miedema, Danielle Carter, and Jordan Nobbs all scored as the record 14-time winners hit five unanswered goals.
City joined the quartet after a hard-fought 4-2 victory over Sunderland. The holders were heading out of the competition before Jane Ross' close-range 90th-minute equaliser. The Sky Blues dug deeper in extra time, ultimately sealing their passage because Ella Toone was on song.
The semi-finals take place on April 15. Here are four key observations from the last eight.
Another barren year beckons for Liverpool
For a fourth consecutive season there won’t be silverware at Liverpool. Following successive Women’s Super League championships in 2013 and 2014, the Reds are suffering a dreadful fall from grace. Fourth in the league, cup honours were their only realistic hope for a trophy this term even though they’ve never won the title.
Arsenal thwarted that dream. Scott Rogers’ ladies will have to try again next year.
Courtney Sweetman-Kirk on fire
Sweetman-Kirk made the jump between the two divisions in women’s football this season. The best player WSL2 had to offer in the Spring Series, she was deservingly snapped up by Everton from Doncaster Rovers Belles. After a brief adjustment period, the 27-year-old is repaying the Toffees’ faith. Her three-bagger at the weekend raised her tally to 10 this campaign. Impressively, she’s found the target seven times in the last five matches.
Joe Montemurro's Arsenal magic goes on
The Gunners have gained irresistible momentum since Montemurro joined the club in November. The Gunners were on a downward spiral before the Australian replaced Pedro Martinez. The Londoners picked up four points from their first three games under the new boss.
Montemurro's presence has settled the sinking Meadow Park ship. The Aussie has lost just once and kept eight consecutive clean sheets. Having already clinched the Continental Cup, the faithful will be dreaming of Wembley.
Long way for underdogs
On either side of the gender gap, the FA Cup is all about surprises. Minnows show up from nowhere to challenge the sharks.
Not this year. And maybe not anytime soon.
The gulf in quality between the top and lower teams in the women's game doesn't allow it. The last two survivors, Durham and Charlton, were taught harsh lessons by Arsenal and Everton. Combined, they shipped in a pitiful 11 goals while notching just one.
There may not be anymore Cinderella stories until the gap is closed.