Ladies report: Chelsea 5 Liverpool 1

A hat-trick from Fran Kirby helped the Blues secure a place in the semi-finals of the Continental Tyres Cup with a dominant performance against Liverpool at Kingsmeadow.

Although we went into the game with wins from all four of our previous matches in the competition this term, which put us top of our five-team group, we had history against us having never before won a knockout match in the Continental Tyres Cup.

That statistic certainly wasn't on the minds of the players as we raced into a three-goal lead within 25 minutes of kick-off. Kirby slotted us in front with a cool finish after holding off Gemma Bonner and then two goals in the space of a minute – the first from Ramona Bachmann as she went round the keeper before slotting in and then another breakaway effort from Kirby – put us in complete control.

There was an early scare after half-time when a period of Liverpool pressure ended with Casey Stoney heading the visitors back into the contest, but the hope didn't last long for the Reds as Kirby completed her hat-trick and substitute Erin Cuthbert scored a beauty from the edge of the box to ensure a comfortable victory for the Blues.

Manager Emma Hayes had made five changes to the team which beat Tottenham Hotspur in our last outing earlier this month. Carly Telford came in for Becky Spencer between the sticks and Maria Thorisdottir, Claire Rafferty, Cuthbert and Gemma Davison were replaced by Gilly Flaherty, Ji So-Yun, captain Katie Chapman and Crystal Dunn.

One of the returnees, Ji, was instrumental as the Blues made a perfect start with the game's first goal with only four minutes on the clock. The South Korean used the slickness of the pitch as she clipped a pass through to Kirby, who showed great strength to hold off Bonner before slipping a left-footed finish past Siobhan Chamberlain.

Liverpool were forced into a change immediately after the goal, the injured Niamh Charles making way for Tash Harding, and we looked to further press home our advantage through the adventurous Dunn down the left. First, the American's attempted cross almost crept in at the back post and then a more accurate delivery found the onrushing Bachmann, whose first-time shot was hit straight at Chamberlain.

Chelsea were looking rampant and though it wasn't all one way traffic, as Liverpool threatened from a corner and forced a smart save from Telford as a shot skipped off the surface, the home side were looking by far the more threatening. Drew Spence saw a shot deflected agonisingly past the post and then from the resulting corner Kirby attempted an extravagant back-heel on the volley which came back off the woodwork.

The game was effectively ended as a contest by the 25th minute, however, thanks to a pair of Blues breakaway goals in quick succession. First, Bachmann was sent scampering through to round Chamberlain before slotting into an empty net, and then it was Kirby's turn to make the most of the space behind the Liverpool defence. This time, the Reds keeper did get a touch to her shot, but the ball had enough on it to cross the line.

The duo combined brilliantly again just past the half-hour mark, Bachmann running clear down the right channel for the umpteenth time and pulling the ball back for Kirby to fire into the side-netting when a goal looked to be the most likely outcome. They were at it again soon after, too, only this time the Blues No14 brought a fine save from Chamberlain.

Liverpool almost forced their way back into the game on the stroke of half-time with a chance which came about when we failed to clear a corner kick, which allowed Caroline Weir to fire at goal and only a touch from Millie Bright prevented it from finding the back of the net rather than the post.

Clearly buoyed by that chance late in the first half, the Reds began the second half brightly and they won a series of corners in quick succession which ended with them pulling a goal back. Former Blues skipper Casey Stoney was the scorer, heading home a corner kick at the back post.

It was a sloppy start to the second 45 minutes by Hayes' side as the rain bucketed down in KT1, but the players provided a positive response to the early concession. Both Maren Mjelde and Kirby went close to restoring our three-goal advantage and there were also lengthy spells of controlled possession, following the pattern of play set in the first half.

We didn't have to wait long for a fourth, though, and once again it was the Bachmann-Kirby combination that provided it. The long-awaited hat-trick arrived, but the hard work in the build-up was done by Bachmann. Another barnstorming run was halted by a fine save by Chamberlain, but Kirby was in the right place to tuck home the rebound to restore our three-goal cushion.

A whole host of substitutions followed from both sides as the tempo noticeably dropped following Chelsea's fourth goal of the afternoon, and it was from the right boot of one of our new arrivals that goal number five arrived. Cuthbert fashioned a yard of space for herself on the edge of the box and curled an exquisite effort into the far corner.  

Weir hit the post again for the visitors with a late free-kick and another Chelsea sub, Eniola Aluko, had the ball in the back of the net only for the linesman's flag to deny her, but it mattered not. Chelsea were comfortable winners and into the hat for the last four.

Attention now turns to the draw for the semi-finals of the Continental Tyres Cup. Visit on Monday afternoon to find who we will meet in the middle of January with a place in the final at stake.

Our next fixture takes place at Kingsmeadow on Sunday 7 January when we host Arsenal in the WSL1.

Chelsea (3-4-1-2) Telford; Mjelde, Flaherty, Bright; Blundell, Ji, Chapman (c), Dunn; Spence (Carney 69); Kirby (Aluko 73), Bachmann (Cuthbert 69)
Unused subs Spencer, Rafferty, Davison
Scorers Kirby 4, 24, 62, Bachmann 23, Cuthbert 77

Liverpool Chamberlain, Hodson (Clarke 71), Harris, Bonner (c), Stoney, Greenwood, Ingle, Longhurst, Coombs, Charles (Harding 5), Weir
Unused subs Flaherty, Fletcher, Rodgers
Scorer Stoney 51

Crowd 1,161