Monday 17 April 2017

Houghton: FA Cup final a dream come true

Steph Houghton cannot wait to lead Man City Women out at Wembley in the FA Cup final.

The Blues face Birmingham at the national stadium on Saturday 13 May, after defeating Liverpool in the semis.

Nick Cushing’s side have never reached the last stage of the competition, having been beaten by Chelsea in their previous attempts.

The FA Cup was highlighted as a major target for the 2017 campaign and Houghton is delighted her side have kept the dream alive.

“We’re really pleased,” she smiled. “In the last two years, we’ve been so close. It was a case of: third time lucky!

“Credit to the girls and the staff – we knew it was a target.

“We were very logical in the way we played. It was another game we had to control and I thought we did that from the first moment to the last.

“Liverpool came here and tried to block. They were very organised, sat in and tried to counter any mistakes.

“We were switched on though. We concentrated and Karen Bardsley barely had a save to make.

“It’s a dream come true to go to Wembley as a fan or as a player. We wanted this so much.

“It’s not just about enjoying the day out – it’s another chance to get our hands on some more silverware.

“It’s going to be tough [in the final] but we’re looking forward to it.”

Houghton also reserved praise for matchwinner Mel Lawley, who joined the Club in January and has made an instant impact.

The skipper added: “She’s the type of player who wants the ball at her feet, getting at people.

“That’s what her goal was all about. She managed to get a shot away on the edge of the box and the 'keeper didn’t have a chance.

“We’re really pleased for her. She’s settled in really well and she’s got her name into the starting XI.”

City have little time to reflect on the achievement with an even bigger test approaching this weekend – the Champions League semi-final first leg visit of Lyon.

The Blues head into the clash with a 100% record in competitive games this season and Houghton believes her side have what it takes to challenge the best.

“We take one game at a time,” she stated. “We know we have so much more to give but at this stage of the season, when games are coming thick and fast, it’s about finding ways to win and thankfully, we’re starting to do that.

“We’re being professional and mature about our performances. Hopefully, it can be seen that we’re controlling games.

“We got the goal [against Liverpool] but we want more. That’s the next step. We want to keep turning over those clean sheets and keep scoring goals.”

An FA Cup record attendance of 3,459 turned out at the Academy Stadium to cheer City on to the final.

Houghton expressed her delight but insisted she was not at all surprised by the support.

“The fans were unbelievable from the first moment to the last,” she reflected.

“It’s the same every game. Reaching the final is an extra special achievement for the whole Club but also for the fans because they come out and support us as much as they can.”