West Ham’s Cho So-hyun wins SSE Women’s FA Cup player of the round
Matt Beard breathed a sigh of relief as he watched SSE Women’s FA Cup Player of the Round Cho So-hyun convert the shoot-out deciding penalty that sent West Ham to Wembley.
The Hammers boss had asked his players to simulate a penalty shoot-out in training prior to their semi-final showdown against Reading and winced as he watched his South Korean ace put her effort into a nearby tree.
But when it came to the real thing, January signing Cho showed nerves of steel to tuck home the winning spot-kick and set up a SSE Women’s FA Cup final date with Manchester City on May 5.
“We did a penalty shootout rehearsal in training where everyone picked the ball up and walked from the halfway line to take their kick and she stuck it in the tree behind the goal,” revealed Beard.
“She went the same way this time and lucky enough it went in the top corner and it was brilliant, she had a big smile on her face and it was a great moment for all of us.
“With the chances they missed I had a feeling it might be our day and once I saw Cho’s body language before her penalty I could see we were going to get there.”
West Ham had fallen behind after Rachel Furness, recipient of the award in the previous round, headed Reading into the lead but Alisha Lehmann levelled the scores in the second-half with a neat finish into the bottom corner.
Fara Williams then hit the post from the penalty spot and missed a gilt-edged chance in the final minutes to settle the tie, forcing a goalless extra-time period as the game finished 1-1.
And Beard was full of praise for Cho, who captains the South Korea for whom she has amassed more than 100 caps, and her influence on the team since her arrival.
“She has an infectious personality, and the way that she plays rubs off on everyone else too,” he said.
“She is very good with and without the ball and we are delighted with how she has settled in especially given the language barrier, but she has worked so hard to make things work here.”
Beard know his side face a tough test against Manchester City but is confident that his players can claim silverware in their first season as a professional team.
“We have come along way over the course of the season so I think on the day it is going to come down to who turns up and I have every confidence in this group,” he added.
“It is an achievement in itself to get there but now we have done that we want to win it.”
As the energy behind women’s football, SSE’s ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE’s sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk