With seven minutes to go until half-time at the famous Wembley Stadium, Chelsea forward Eniola Aluko is in acres of space and charging down towards the penalty area. Drifting in towards a more central position, she fakes a shot then turns sharply to her left, taking the Notts County defender out of the game. After making a quick diagonal run into the box, Ji So-Yun is just ten yards out when she receives the short pass from Aluko. She takes a touch, causing the Notts County goalkeeper to dive at her feet whilst another defender attempts a last ditch tackle. The ball lands kindly and Ji So-Yun stretches to tap the ball into an empty net and give Chelsea the lead. She has just scored the winning goal in an FA Cup final in front of thirty thousand supporters. Most English children dream of scoring the winning goal at Wembley, the ancestral home of English football, but for Ji, this dream became a reality on the first day of August 2015.
Although the Women’s World Cup ultimately ended in disappointment for South Korea, almost everything else about the year has been a success for Ji So-Yun as her club, Chelsea Ladies, won the domestic double, winning the league by two points as well as winning the first ever FA Women’s Cup to be played at the new Wembley Stadium. Over two million people tuned in to watch Chelsea’s FA Cup win against Notts County on the BBC.
At the beginning of 2014, Chelsea signed Ji from Japanese side INAC Kobe Leonessa. At that time, Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes described Ji So-Yun as one of the best midfielders in the world. In 2015, her new peers in England certainly agreed as Ji was named the PFA Player’s Player-of-the-Year, one of England’s top footballing awards. As well as providing defense-splitting passes, Ji also managed to find the net five times in the league including two goals against Liverpool. The first of those two showed-off Ji’s ability as she took down and controlled the ball from a difficult cross to the far post whilst turning away from her marker all in one movement before smashing the ball into the roof of the net. With technique like that, it is no wonder that her nickname is the ‘Korean Messi’. Ji herself prefers Ronaldo, but she was unable to match her hero’s European Cup winning exploits as Chelsea Ladies were knocked out of the competition by German side Wolfsburg. Although they failed to win in Europe, Chelsea’s domestic double is a huge achievement, and Ji So-Yun has been instrumental in helping Chelsea become the best women’s team in England.
by Steve Price