Man United 2-1 Chelsea Women, 3 takeaways: poor start leads to shock FA Cup elimination

It wasn't by any means how Emma Hayes drew it up. Thanks to two goals inside the first 30 minutes, Marc Skinner and Manchester United stunned the women's football world, taking down the three-time defending FA Cup champions in the semifinals.
Manchester United v Chelsea - Adobe Women's FA Cup Semi Final
Manchester United v Chelsea - Adobe Women's FA Cup Semi Final / Nathan Stirk/GettyImages
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Lauren James
Arsenal v Chelsea - FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

United will take on Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on the afternoon of May 12. Neither club has ever won the FA Cup. Before we shift the focus to Aston Villa, here are our takeaways from yesterday's match, one we'd like to forget.

3 takeaways from Chelsea Women's first FA Cup defeat since September 2020

3. Second half dominance not enough to overcome a dismal first 30 minutes

Up one in the second 45 minutes, Skinner's crew chose to sit back, absorb pressure, and hope the defense could hold up. It was a bold strategy. One that was not easy on the hearts of United fans everywhere. The Red Devils conceded possession, allowing Hayes' team to throw punch after punch at them with such a slender advantage in their favor. The home outfit was content without the ball all game long. When Chelsea didn't have control of the ball, it struggled. That was the difference. United knew it had to do something different from the last fixture. The club allowed the Blues just 57 percent of the ball in January compared to the 70 percent it conceded in April.

You cannot decide it is go time a half hour into the contest. It is almost like running a race and making the decision to try halfway through. You've already lost so much time. No matter how hard you run, the hill needed to climb is quite large compared to what it would have been if you'd come out ready to roll from the off. Per Harry Edwards, the unofficial CFCW Statman, the Blues are 1-1-11 when trailing by two goals or more goals in the first half under Hayes.

2. Officiating plays its part once again, to nobody's surprise

What's new? Well, absolutely nothing. We see the negatives of VAR in the NWSL week in and week out, but to support these referees in the United Kingdom, it's very much necessary. Controversy when it comes to the individuals with the whistles has been a consistent story in English football all season long.

Whether it was the chaotic Manchester City match early in the campaign or a few weeks ago when West Ham United was on the wrong side of a decision against the Blues, there seems to be no conclusion to this storyline. Yesterday, in a match that was win or go home, the 32-year-old Dowle missed two clear penalties, one of which was a Katie Zelem handball, the other a wreckless challenge by a forward on Charles.

We've seen Chelsea be on the right end of some decisions throughout the campaign. On Sunday, it received the wrong end of the stick. It's tough to get back into a match when the person who is supposed to be neutral just isn't. With that being said, it's never all on the officials. The West Londoners chose to come out of the gate uninspired in a match with such large stakes.

"We had VAR in a cup final and to help our officials we have to have technology in our games," the Blues' sideline leader explained. "Niamh said to me at the end, 'how did they not think it was a penalty'."