Caroline Weir inspires Manchester City to League Cup final win over Chelsea
Gareth Taylor said criticism of his tenure at the start of the season felt “a little bit unjustified” after Manchester City beat Chelsea 3-1 to win the Continental League Cup.
City stuttered early on in the campaign with crippling injuries, condemning them to seven defeats in their first 14 games and many questioned whether Taylor was capable of reversing the team’s fortunes.
“To be honest, I came off all social media at that time, I surrounded myself with the right people,” said the former striker. “I’m an ex-player, I’ve had criticism all my career, so I kind of know how to handle it, doesn’t mean I like it. I just tried to cut out the noise.
“I felt that it was a little bit unjustified, with the amount of injuries that we had. What were [doubters] expecting in that situation when we were only able to select two or three outfield substitutes in a game and were playing players in unfamiliar positions? It’s easy these days to point a finger and say: ‘Is this person up to it or not?’ But I think you have to have belief in what you do.”
The game was almost a microcosm of City’s season with two goals from the Scotland midfielder Caroline Weir sandwiching Ellen White’s poached effort in a gutsy second-half performance after the Australia forward, Sam Kerr, had given Chelsea the lead.
“The players are the most important thing,” Taylor said. “They’ve shown that they’re fighting, they’ve been fighting the whole season, and sometimes things haven’t gone our way. Fortunately, more recently things have started to edge our way, which is nice.”
City were unlucky not to be ahead in the 26th minute after Georgia Stanway’s cross was met by the dynamic Lauren Hemp but she rattled the ball off the foot of the post. The resulting clearance fell to full-back Demi Stokes on the edge of the area, her strike ricocheted off the high arm of Sophie Ingle but the referee, Lisa Benn, waved away the penalty appeals.
The Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, had insisted it would be business as usual on the pitch after “a long week for people at Chelsea” and, perhaps shaken alive by Hemp’s chance, the holders started to stretch the City backline. Less than 10 minutes later they had the lead.
Guro Reiten’s cross from the left could only be pushed away by Ellie Roebuck as Stokes leant into her while going for the same ball. Kerr collected before turning and firing low and into the net.
Unperturbed, five minutes after the restart City were level. Stanway’s square ball in was taken down by Weir who fired past Ann-Katrin Berger, taking a deflection off her outstretched foot on its way in.
“When it went to 1-1 the momentum shifted,” Hayes said. “We’ve been undefeated against them 10 times [but] today’s their day; congratulations. I think they’re worthy winners because of their second-half performance. We lacked players today and I think it showed. The better team won over 90 minutes.”
With momentum swinging behind City, White gave them the lead for the first time, poking in the rebound after Berger parried Hemp’s effort. Less than 10 minutes later they extended it, again through Weir, this time volleying smartly into the top corner. Weir had come off of the bench in back-to-back Manchester derbies to score before starting in the final.
“I think one of the first conversations I had with Caroline was: ‘I know you can score from 30 yards. But what are you like in the box?’ And she said: ‘Well, I probably don’t get in there enough’,” Taylor said.
“I scored a hat-trick here once, I was telling the girls earlier, when it was the old Plough Lane. It was in the FA Youth Cup for Southampton at Wimbledon. I said: ‘See if you can match that, Ellen’.”