LADIES REPORT: CHELSEA 2 LIVERPOOL 2
Chelsea Ladies came from two goals behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Liverpool in an enthralling match at Wheatsheaf Park.
Two weeks after their previous league encounter against Doncaster Rovers Belles, Chelsea Ladies manager Matt Beard made two changes to the side, with Claire Rafferty and Ashlee Hincks coming in for Sophie Perry and Helen Bleazard.
In difficult conditions on a wet Sunday in Staines, the visitors began brightly, testing the blues back four from the opening minutes. Blues defender Gemma Bonner kept the game goalless with a last-ditch intervention when Hannah Keryakoplis broke through on goal.
Liverpool again came close through Chloe Jones' ferocious 35-yard free kick which rattled the crossbar before the visitors took the lead from the penalty spot with 14 minutes played.
With the hosts struggling to clear their lines in an increasingly congested penalty area, the ball struck the arm of Blues midfielder Katie Sherwood. Kelly Jones took the chance to put her side in front and lashed home from 12 yards.
The Blues looked to respond quickly, with Helen Lander and Dunia Susi key in Chelsea's efforts to force an equaliser. However, Liverpool's constant threat on the break would see the visitors double their advantage before the midpoint of the first half.
Following a neat passing move, Jones turned provider, rolling the ball to the right and inviting the onrushing Keryakoplis to stroke home from 15 yards after 21 minutes.
Having netted the Blues' equaliser against Doncaster in their previous fixture, Lander again led the Chelsea fight-back. After chasing down a lofted pass over the Liverpool defence, the Chelsea forward lifted her effort over Liverpool goalkeeper Nicky Davies to reduce the hosts' arrears going into the break.
A Chelsea change saw Sue Lappin introduced in place of Sherwood. Lappin almost made an immediate impact against her former club, firing a fierce low effort at Davies.
Then, with a free kick awarded 25 yards from goal, Blues midfielder Dani Buet unleashed a stunning effort, finding the top corner to level the scores.
Having recovered from a disastrous opening, the hosts looked to press for a winner, with Lappin again at the heart of the action, coming close with a curling effort from distance and testing Davies with a strong header from a Rafferty cross.
As a fascinating fixture drew to a close, the Blues finished the stronger side. Helen Bleazard came closest inside the final 10 minutes, rising highest in the Liverpool penalty area only to see her headed effort cleared off the line as the match ended 2-2.
After coming back from two goals behind to secure a point, manager Matt Beard praised his side's character.
'We didn't start well and that's what cost us,' explained Beard. 'We can't keeping giving away goals the way we did. We had opportunities to clear our lines and didn't and they ended up punishing us for it.
'But we did show character and mental toughness to be 2-0 down after 20 minutes and come back and get something out of the game.'
Chelsea Ladies continue their FA WSL campaign with a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face champions Arsenal on Thursday 26 April.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (C); Sophie Ingle (Bleazard 71), Gemma Bonner, Victoria Williams, Dunia Susi; Danni Buet, Katie Sherwood (Sue Lappin HT), Laura Coombs, Claire Rafferty; Ashlee Hincks (Fay 62), Helen Lander.
Unused subs Sarah Quantrill, Sophie Perry, Drew Spence, Kate Longhurst.
By Daniel Clarke