Ladies report: Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea
news Wed 27 Apr 2016
A goal in each half from Ji So-Yun and Gilly Flaherty helped the Blues defeat Liverpool for our third straight win in the FA Women's Super League.
Ji's clinical left-footed finish after 13 minutes got Emma Hayes' side off to a great start and the advantage was deservedly doubled after the interval by Flaherty on the day her new two-year contract was announced – a powerful header a fitting way to mark the occasion.
Although Caroline Weir pulled a goal back for Liverpool to set-up a tense finish to the game, Chelsea's defence stood firm to lead us to a brilliant victory.
The Blues were 2-0 victors last time out at Arsenal, but the manager opted to make three changes to the starting XI which took apart the Gunners. Claire Rafferty made way for Ana Borges which meant the back four and goalkeeper lined up: Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Flaherty and Borges.
The midfield saw one change as Drew Spence dropped to the bench and Jade Bailey slipped in alongside Katie Chapman to form our holding-midfield pairing, while further forward the addition of Eniola Aluko in place of Karen Carney added pace alongside Gemma Davison and Ji. Fran Kirby, who had netted three times in her previous two outings, led the line once again.
There was little goalmouth action in the opening 10 minutes of the match despite the Blues showing plenty of nice touches around the box, but we didn't have to wait long for the opening goal. Ji was the scorer, just as she had been in the crucial meeting between the sides last term, and although this effort wasn't as spectacular it was enough to squeeze past Siobhan Chamberlain. Blundell was heavily involved in the build-up, winning the ball high up the pitch before squaring for Aluko to scuff a shot into Ji's path.
Lindahl was called upon soon after to make a regulation save from Zelem's shot which, for all its power, lacked direction and the Blues probably should have extended their advantage when a brilliant cross from Bright to her centre-back partner Flaherty was headed wide of the target.
If Lindahl's previous stop was to be expected then her next involvement was anything but ordinary as she flew through the air to claw away a vicious strike from Weir that looked destined for the top corner. But the Swede failed to deal with resulting corner and only a combination of Borges and the post denied Liverpool a goal.
The Blues continued to look dangerous on the break and both Davison and Kirby tested Chamberlain after lightning-quick counter-attacks, but the game became a scrappy affair heading into the interval and the Blues lost their skipper to injury following a clash of heads which left her looking groggy. On came Beth England in her place.
The last action of the half almost saw Chelsea's advantage extended as Davison, against her former club, jinked her way in from the left before curling a delicate right-footed effort narrowly wide of the post. The Blues could, and perhaps should, have been taking a bigger lead into the dressing room at half-time.
The second half began much the same way as the first ended, with Chelsea on top and looking to press home the advantage. Within five minutes of the restart Liverpool's goal twice came under serious threat. The first strike was a curling effort from Bailey, who was brilliantly picked out by Davison's pull-back only to see Chamberlain palm the ball away, and then Kirby broke clear down the right and fired a low drive just past the far post.
It wasn't long before the Blues grabbed a deserved second, although Van De Sanden and it came from the head of Flaherty, who marked her new contract in the best possible manner. Davison had won the corner with typically tricky play down the right and when Borges' set-piece was flicked into the centre-back's path five yards from goal she simply could not miss.
Following the goal, Hayes brought on Karen Carney in place of Kirby and soon after she was forced into another change when Lindahl was caught challenging for a Liverpool free-kick and was unable to continue. Becky Spencer replaced the Swede.
With a two-goal advantage, the Blues were content to leave Aluko up front and maintain a solid shape in midfield and defence, albeit with support readily offered from the flanks, but a lapse at the back allowed Weir to break clear and slot past Spencer to set-up a nervy final 10 minutes plus eight minutes stoppage time.
A wonderful stop from Becky Spencer kept us in front and then a lengthy stoppage for another clash of heads, this time involving England, but the Blues held firm to claim the win our performance deserved.
The two sides meet again at Wheatsheaf Park a week on Sunday in a rearranged WSL fixture following the postponement of the game on Easter Monday.
Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Chamberlain; Harding, Bonner (c), Van Den Berg, Pacheco; Ingle, Longhurst (Charles 68); Zelem, Van De Sanden (Hodson 78), Weir; White
Unused subs: Gibbons, Harris, Green
Goals: Weir 81
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl (Spencer 70); Blundell, Bright, Flaherty, Borges; Chapman (c) (England 45), Bailey; Davison, Ji, Aluko; Kirby (Carney 63)
Unused subs: C Rafferty, L Rafferty, Spence
Goals: Ji 13, Flaherty 62