LADIES REPORT: CHELSEA 2 LIVERPOOL 1
Goals at the start of each half saw Chelsea pick up their first win of the group stage of the FA WSL Continental Cup as they beat Liverpool 2-1 at Wheatsheaf Park.
Chelsea manager Matt Beard made five changes to the side which drew 0-0 with Bristol Academy in the previous outing, including a first start of the campaign for midfielder Drew Spence, while Sophie Gwilliam came in at right-back for her first-team debut.
After coming from two goals behind to secure a point in the two sides' last meeting, Chelsea looked to take the initiative early on and opened the scoring in the first minute. Former Red Sue Lappin picked out Helen Lander behind the Liverpool defence, who neatly lifted her effort over Nicky Davies to put the hosts in front.
Chelsea came close to doubling the lead after just five minutes when Lara Fay's pass found Dunia Susi, who poked the ball past Davies only to see her effort roll inches wide.
In a spell of early dominance for the Blues, Lander almost doubled her tally after latching onto debutant Gwilliam's excellent, defence-splitting pass. Davies was forced into a good save to deny the quick-thinking Lander a second goal.
After a strong opening, the hosts withstood a spell of pressure from Liverpool as the visitors fired a string of shots at the Chelsea goal, although inaccuracy meant Blues goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill remained largely untested.
Into the second half, Chelsea again looked to assert themselves from the kick-off, with Susi tormenting the Liverpool defence. Just a minute into the half, Spence's ball picked out the stand-in captain, only for her effort to bounce back off the near post.
However, Susi would not be denied and, just three minutes later, a superb pass from Sophie Ingle found the England international, who drove home past Davies to double Chelsea's advantage.
Despite Chelsea extending the lead, Liverpool still looked to threaten the hosts' goal and were rewarded for their efforts on 62 minutes when Chloe Jones' pass found Emily Gielnik, who coolly slotted home to reduce the deficit.
Despite Liverpool's goal, Chelsea created further chances to extend their lead as the game drew to a close. Lappin came closest to scoring against her former side after rising highest to meet Dani Buet's corner only to head wide. Then, Lara Fay tested Davies with a low drive from distance before the final whistle blew.
After the match, manager Matt Beard was pleased with his re-shuffled side's performance, amidst a busy time in his team's schedule.
'We utilised the whole squad because it's been a busy couple of weeks and it gives everyone the opportunity to get minutes under their belt and show what they can do.'
After bouncing back from defeat in the opening match of the Continental Cup, Beard was also delighted to see his side put themselves in contention to qualify for the knockout rounds of the competition.
'We've got to play Arsenal, so it's in our hands,' said Beard, whose side will face the Cup holders for a place in the next round. 'Now we've got to go to Borehamwood in June and win it.'
With the Continental Cup now on hold until next month, the Blues return to league action when they host Everton on Sunday 20 May at Wheatsheaf Park.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Sarah Quantrill; Lara Fay, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle, Sophie Gwilliam (Sophie Perry 70); Dunia Susi (C) (Helen Bleazard 62), Drew Spence, Laura Coombs (Dani Buet HT), Ashlee Hincks; Sue Lappin, Helen Lander.
Unused Subs Carly Telford, Katie Sherwood, Kate Longhurst, Victoria Williams.
By Daniel Clarke