Gareth Taylor’s side successfully defended the trophy with a 3-1 victory over Everton at Wembley in the 50th edition of the tournament, as substitutes Georgia Stanway and Janine Beckie struck in extra-time to snatch the win.
The holders produced a spirited display to edge the Toffees in a tense encounter at Wembley, after the two sides had played out an enthralling 1-1 draw in normal time with Valérie Gauvin cancelling out Sam Mewis' opener.
Having lifted the trophy in May 2019, City had held the honour for a total of 547 days heading into this clash and triumphant in the first of two FA Cup tournaments this season, ensured our name will remain on the prestigious silverware for at least another six months…
As the reigning Champions, City arrived at Wembley as strong favourites but wary of an Everton side who had impressed with an exceptional start to their 2020/21 campaign, sitting second in the FA Women’s Super League with four wins from five and having defeated the much-fancied Chelsea and Birmingham en route to Sunday’s Final.
A host of familiar faces on both sides added further intrigue to the occasion – most notably the inclusions of former Toffee Chloe Kelly and England star, Izzy Christiansen, who played a pivotal role in City’s early success as a top-flight outfit, scoring in the 2014 Continental Cup and 2017 FA Cup triumphs.
Eager to assert early dominance, City started the brighter of the two sides, as former Toffee Chloe Kelly carved the game’s first chance – only to scuff her effort into the arms of ex-City Academy ‘keeper Sandy MacIver.
Everton grew into the contest, gaining confidence, and almost broke the deadlock from a free-kick as Damaris Egurrola smashed the rebound just over the bar, after the initial effort had hit the wall.
The award of the effort had been controversial, as last player Lucy Bronze halted Hayley Raso in her tracks – seemingly fairly – but received a yellow card for a foul, rather than a red.
Kelly then drove a powerful effort goalward, which MacIver parried, before Mewis latched onto a long-ball over the top – only to be thwarted by the onrushing Everton shot-stopper.
At the other end, the Toffees seemed content to counter and Gauvin came closest, first drilling just wide and then firing straight at Ellie Roebuck.
The breakthrough arrived courtesy of a set-piece. Much of the pre-match talk had centred on Alex Greenwood’s inclusion at centre-back but the summer recruit showcased her attacking prowess, driving an inch-perfect delivery in for Mewis to head home her fourth goal in six games with aplomb to give City a treasured half-time lead.
Ten minutes after the restart, City were unfortunate not to double the lead, as Caroline Weir’s low effort cannoned agonisingly back off the post. The rebound fell kindly for Kelly but with a goal seeming destined, MacIver bounced up to produce a brilliant reaction save.
Not to be outdone, Roebuck produced a stunning stop of her own, tipping over Egurrola’s header well, but from the resulting corner, Gauvin converted at the near post.
The French forward almost turned the game on its head single-handedly, heading narrowly wide of the near post with 72 minutes on the clock – a real let-off for City.
Kelly sought to weave some magic against the side she started the competition with – but fired off-target – while substitute Georgia Stanway also saw an effort suffer the same fate.
Nicoline Sørensen then almost caught Roebuck out with a cross-shot, which almost crept into the nearpost with the City ‘keeper alert to push onto the bar and over.
The dying embers saw the holders press to snatch the winner. Kelly and Weir were both unable to keep efforts down, and the latter was desperately unlucky not to steal the win, striking the crossbar in injury time.
Extra-time beckoned and City continued to push for the elusive winner.
Mewis took aim for the bottom corner but once again, found MacIver equal to it, while Steph Houghton also brought the best of the Toffees shot-stopper, as she tipped the skipper's header onto the post.
The winner arrived in the 110th minute of play, fittingly via two of young stars, as substitutes Jess Park and Stanway combined.
Teenager Park drove at the Everton defence before playing a lovely through-ball into Stanway's path and the forward poked in off the post to spark wild celebrations and turn the game in City's favour.
Adding the icing to the cake in injury-time extra-time, Janine Beckie - introduced a matter of moments earlier - sealed the win, slotting coolly past MacIver to make it three!
HOW WE LINED UP
Taylor opted for one change from the team that drew 1-1 with Reading in the FA Women's Super League a fortnight ago, as Weir replaced Stanway in the starting XI.
Ellen White led the line upfront.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
A towering presence, composed in possession and an inspirational leader, World Cup winner Mewis produced an imperious display to clinch her first piece of silverware with the Club.
City become the first side since Arsenal in 2014 to retain the trophy.
Skipper Steph Houghton followed in the footsteps of former England captains Bryan Robson and John Terry in lifting the FA Cup at Wembley Stadium three times.
Georgia Stanway's strike marked her 50th career goal - 48 for City and two for England.
There's little time to celebrate with a Continental Cup group stage trip to Liverpool on Wednesday 4 November (2pm UK).
Both sides claimed victory in our opening Group C clashes, as City defeated Everton 3-1, while the Reds triumphed over Manchester United by the same scoreline.