Thorns top Gotham in penalty shootout to claim 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

Thorns top Gotham in penalty shootout to claim 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

NWSL

Thorns top Gotham in penalty shootout to claim 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

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The fans at Providence Park in Portland were put through an emotional rollercoaster before seeing their hometown Thorns hoist the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup on Saturday.

Ending 6-5 after penalties, the Thorns bested NY/NJ Gotham in thrilling fashion, and Morgan Weaver goes down as the hero who made the shot to send the team off the field with hardware for the second time in as many seasons.

Weaver’s shot became high-leverage after Adrianna Franch made a diving stop to Nahomi Kawasumi to set up the walk-off situation.

The heroics bailed the team out of what could have been an embarrassing blown opportunity. Overall the game became Portland’s to lose, and it nearly did.

A late equalizer from Carli Lloyd snapped both parties out of the trance they were in, particularly Gotham, which was unlocked by the goal and began to make the game much more competitive.

For 60 minutes prior, Portland rode the wave of an early goal from Christine Sinclair. The team came in and out of spells where it battered Gotham keeper Didi Haracic with chance after chance but failed to find a game-killer.

Naturally in a final situation, chaos ensued in the final minutes.

PORTLAND, OR – MAY 8: Simone Charley #7, Lindsey Horan #10 and Kelli Hubly #20 of the Portland Thorns FC celebrate after a game between NJ/NY Gotham City FC and Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park on May 8, 2021 in Portland, Oregon.

Both teams will be left regretting not making the most of their final opportunities to save themselves from a nervy penalty situation. Thorns striker Sophia Smith’s final play of the game had her one-on-one with Haracic with time and space to spare, but she shanked it. Gotham’s Ifeoma Onumonu missed a headed opportunity at point-blank in the same fashion.

The Thorns were always expected to take care of business as the clear favorite, and now they’ll be looking to finish the job as the NWSL transitions back into a regular-season format.

Newly rebranded Gotham walks away from the contest with some higher expectations than it had to open up the season and will be looking to capitalize on making the final in the first place.

Woman of the Match: Christine Sinclair opened the scoring in the 8th minute and converted in the end under pressure as well as spearheading the Thorns offense all afternoon.

Moment of the Match: The rest of the game did not turn out the way she wanted, but Carli Lloyd’s 61st-minute equalizer woke Gotham up and made grounds for a thrilling finish.

Match to Forget: Gotham substitute Ifeoma Onumonu had a free header late in the second half. Had she converted, she would have stolen the game for Gotham, but the shot missed the frame on the near post side.

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