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Chelsea’s big-game cheat code Sam Kerr took centre stage in FA Cup final win against Man City

Chelsea 3-2 Man City AET (Kerr 33′ 99′, Cuthbert 63′ | Hemp 42′, Raso 89′)

WEMBLEY STADIUM — Eight goals in five cup finals. That is the statistic which best illustrates the reliance of Chelsea’s successes on the individual brilliance of Sam Kerr, a player for whom producing performances of the highest order on the biggest stage imaginable seems to be an effortless task.

The Australian is a seasoned headline-grabber, a player who knows how to be at the right place at the right time on the right occasions. When her side needed something – anything – to save their WSL title hopes, she stepped up; when Chelsea so direly required the edge over Manchester City on Sunday, she was there to do what her side needed.

It is baffling to think that not too long ago, people were doubting her footballing credentials. It took her time to settle to the style of play in the Women’s Super League, adjusting from what she had become accustomed to in Australia and America to replicate those talents on new shores, but since settling in she has become unstoppable.

Like a Chess grandmaster, Kerr appears to have an innate ability to read the play and be able to stay ahead of the defenders who attempt – and usually fail – to stop her talents from flourishing. She can do what is required when up against even the best in the game, but she already holds an advantage over her counterparts with the way that she is able to scan the pitch and divulge what is set to happen before it has even started.

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In no way was that clearer than with her first goal, the Australian already in the right position to provide the deftest of touches and divert an unexpectedly-tempting Millie Bright cross past the onlooking Ellie Roebuck. Many rushed to assume that Bright had directed a cross-shot into the net, but it soon became clear that Kerr’s involvement was crucial.

And then, for the pivotal moment, it was the same case. She was clearly becoming tired by this point, but her mind hadn’t switched off. She positioned herself correctly and was on hand to pounce when compatriot Alanna Kennedy misjudged a bouncing ball, the forward taking advantage to hand her side the FA Cup title.

Yet it would be foolish to assume that her individual brilliance is the only reason for Chelsea’s successes. If the game showed anything, it was that this is actually far from the case.

Victory required a concerted effort from the entire side to toil even as the going got tough to continue on in their fight and not allow their standards to drop. They tired as the minutes went by, but kept up the same intensity they had displayed across the rest of the game.

There is perhaps no better example of a player who contributed to this team effort than Erin Cuthbert. Named player of the match for good reason, not only did she score with an excellent rifled strike from outside the box into the top corner, but she continually pressed and kept up her inch-perfect passing across the game.

The Scottish midfielder has been somewhat underestimated this campaign but has been a crucial element of Hayes’ side, piecing together the midfield but also playing elsewhere across the side to contribute where she has been needed.

And while she may not receive the same plaudits as those who dazzle in front of goal, the 23-year-old is much-respected for good reason. On the Wembley field she never stopped running and was understandably exhausted by the final whistle, her diligence helping to spur her side on to the title.

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She’s one of numerous players important to Chelsea’s build-up play and is a key reason as to why they have been able to get the best out of Kerr across recent years.

The latest cup final triumph is yet another embodiment of the ruthless title-winning machine which has formed under Hayes, and they don’t look like stopping any time soon.

“I’m just so f***ing happy,” Hayes said. “I’m being dead honest! Those women will go down in history. I will look back in 10 years’ time and will be like ‘that group was immense’.

“They are the best team I have ever coached. I totally understand that we always want to talk about perfection in football but having been on the winning side more often than not, let me tell you, it’s about human endeavour.

“We have a group of people that won’t be on the losing team. They will find a way.”

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