'My calves are about to fall off': Erin Cuthbert goal gives Chelsea's unsung hero moment in the sun

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Erin Cuthbert celebrates her wonder goal that helped Chelsea beat Manchester City and win another FA Cup final - GETTY IMAGES
Erin Cuthbert celebrates her wonder goal that helped Chelsea beat Manchester City and win another FA Cup final - GETTY IMAGES

As Erin Cuthbert collected Beth England's lay-off just outside the penalty area, it felt as though the competition-record crowd of 49,094 took a collective intake of breath. In her mind, Cuthbert said to herself 'just hit it'. She was going for the top corner.

She found it in emphatic style, powering her strike beyond the reach of Ellie Roebuck, off the underside of the crossbar to score the goal of the game in by far the best Women's FA Cup final of modern times.

Live on BBC 1 and around the world, it was the type of great goal that will help the women's game capture more first-time viewers or passing onlookers' interest on a more permanent basis; a moment of true world-class quality in a final that thrilled neutrals as it went to extra-time.

It also prompted some long-overdue plaudits for the Scotland midfielder, who has been Chelsea's unsung hero in recent years amidst the buzz of excitement around their bigger-name global stars such as Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby. If those headline-winners are the faces at the front of a Chelsea advert, Cuthbert is the all-important terms and conditions with the detail that no campaign could run without. Adaptable to play in almost any outfield role, the 23-year-old works tirelessly for Chelsea and this Wembley performance exemplified her work-rate to a much wider audience. Nobody has given more to the cause for this term.

At full-time, this was apparent, as Chelsea players celebrated all around her and manager Emma Hayes pumped her chest, beaming, at that moment, Cuthbert sank to her knees, exhausted. As players came up to her to hug her, she smiled briefly, and then as each hug ended she had a look of almost anguish etched across her face, looking spent, from sheer hard work.

"My calves are about to fall off," a exhausted-looking Cuthbert later joked, as she stopped to speak to journalists as the last player to leave the dressing-room celebrations. "What an amazing feeling, I feel on top of the world at the moment.

"I didn't want to speak to anybody [at full-time], I was just absolutely knackered. But what a shift from everyone, it's been a tough slog of a season. There have been times when we've been knocked hard. We had to dig deep and find something in ourselves.

"I certainly looked inwards, those thoughts as soon as you enter extra-time - 'I don't know if I can handle it, I don't know if I can go anymore' - but, you find something, you really have to dig deep. It's not often in football you have those moments of really having to dig that deep. Everybody did and that's testament to the group."

On her goal she simply added: "If you don't buy a ticket you don't win the raffle."

That strike, that level of effort and the fact that this was a thrilling, five-goal final was also befitting of the occasion, as the attendance came closer to 50,000 for a women's club game in England than at any stage since Dick Kerr Ladies' historic audiences of the 1920s.

Cuthbert deservedly enjoying herself as she lifts the FA Cup - PA
Cuthbert deservedly enjoying herself as she lifts the FA Cup - PA

And this final, which could well become iconic for years to come, came at the start of what could now be a summer of unparalled interest in the women's game on these shores, with July's home Women's Euros a little over seven weeks away.

The extra eyes on the women's game will continue next Saturday, with the Women's Champions League final between Barcelona and Lyon, which Telegraph Sport can exclusively reveal is likely to be simulcast live on ITV as well as on steaming platform DAZN, the rights-holder. Multiple sources have confirmed that ITV and DAZN are in advanced talks over a deal to share that final, from Turin.

This season's Women's Champions League, the first with one central rights holder, has already accumulated 55.9 million views worldwide across the season through DAZN, according to their latest figures, and ITV would give the UK television numbers a boost to that.

On the same day, May 21, it is understood the BBC is set to broadcast the Women's National League promotion play-off between Southampton and Wolves live, after positive discussions between the broadcaster and the Football Association.

The 3pm kick-off at the neutral venue of Stockport County's Edgeley Park will determine which side is promoted from the third tier of the English women's game up to the Championship.

The match is likely to be streamed live online by BBC Sport and on the BBC iPlayer. The BBC's interest in the match would give the fixture far greater exposure than usual and would be a step into unchartered waters with increased eyes on the third tier of the domestic game.

Then will come the Euros in July, where Wembley and Old Trafford are set to be packed for the final and opening match respectively, and if Sunday's classic cup final is anything to go by, it will be a summer to remember for the women's game.

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