Cliftonville Ladies 0 Sion Swifts Ladies 2 (After extra-time)
Cora Chambers turned her disappointment at failing to make the Northern Ireland squad for the Women’s Euro 2022 finals into joy with a match-winning performance to give Sion Swifts Ladies a 2-0 victory over Cliftonville in the Jordan’s Gift Women’s Premiership League Cup final
The teenage striker who had been part of Kenny Shiels’ full-time training squad since the turn of the year started on the bench, it was, however, after she was introduced at half time that Sion Swifts began to really dominate the contest.
Her superbly executed strike in the second minute of extra time was worthy of winning any decider, but Chambers went on the put a cherry on top of the cake with a neat finish deep in added time to seal the prize with a second goal.
That more than made up for an earlier miss when Chambers, who had been told last Friday that she hadn’t made the cut for the Euros, had the perfect opportunity to win the game in normal time, but she failed from the penalty spot, sending her effort crashing off a post.
Cliftonville too had a player not included in the Northern Ireland squad, Toni Leigh Finnegan, come back into their team just days after suffering the disappointment of not being included in the panel for the finals.
She showed the quality that took her to the brink of the tournament early in the game as the Reds started strongly.
Possession wise they were much the better team in the early phases, but without making that pay in terms of openings in front of goal, a combination of a lack of punch up front and Sion Swifts well organised offside trap – although a few times it looked like the flag had gone up too early – preventing them from having clear sight of the net.
Gradually Sion Swifts began to not only get a foothold in the game, but gain the upper hand with
Aimeee Dunn shooting wide Kerryanne Brown firing over the bar Caoirse Doherty pulling a snapshot wide as ball fell to her 12 yards out.
It was a slight change of shape and Chambers’ introduction that began to change things – although not before Grace McKimm sent in a cross that Megan Copeland just failed to connect with as Cliftonville threatened to seize the advantage.
Outside of that Sion’s pressing style gave Cliftonville no room to play in, they struggled to keep possession and long balls out of defence were eaten up by the Sion Swifts back line.
It was from a long free-kick of their own that presented Sion Swifts with the golden opportunity of that penalty, the ball hitting Cliftonville defender Fi Morgan’s raised arm inside the box before she headed it away.
Chambers stepped up and as Reds goalkeeper Rachel Norney went one way the ball came back off the opposite post.
She would go on to steal the show impressively in extra time, finally breaking the deadlock in the 92nd minute after Norney took a back pass and tried to play the ball first time to captain Megan Moran, she lost her footing and Chambers pounced, racing in from the left before taking a touch before finishing superbly inside the near post from 12 yards.
Then, just as time was about to run out, Zoe McGlynn sent the ball across the face of goal and Chambers made it a special double to confirm the win.
CLIFTONVILLE LADIES: Norney, White, Moran, Morgan, Finnegan, Montgomery, McKimm, Reilly, McHenry, Irvine, Copeland (Thompson 70 mins). Unused subs: Welsh, Wilton, Madden, Anderson, Gilliland, Mailey.
SION SWIFTS LADIES: Currie, Neal, Walsh, McCarter, Durn (Long 78 mins), Crompton, McGlynn, McLaughlin (Chambers 46 mins), O’Neill, Brown, C Doherty. Unused subs: Harris, Coyle, T Doherty, Quigg, McFarland.
Referee: Michael McKenna.