Chelsea made light work of difficult conditions on Merseyside to record a comprehensive victory in the Women’s Super League.
Fran Kirby scored twice in the first half, the second goal her third penalty of the season, as Emma Hayes’ side dominated. That continued after the break.
Our no.14’s hat-trick and her 16th goal of the season came shortly after the start of the second half (pictured top) and she was not far away from a fourth soon after. Erin Cuthbert and Hannah Blundell had also gone close to scoring earlier in a game in which Liverpool were kept well away from our goal throughout.
The fourth goal came with the referee poised to blow the full-time whistle. Adelina Engman was the scorer with a well-placed header.
There was much to admire about this performance and little sign of rustiness after a break without club fixtures.
Before tonight it had been three weeks since the last Chelsea Women’s outing, the big win over Bristol City, and following a programme of international matches there were five changes to the team with Maren Mjelde returning after a lengthy absence and named in the defence.
Ann-Katrin Berger was in goal and Cuthbert, Kirby and Karen Carney, the latter two fresh from their SheBelieves Cup triumph with England in the United States, lined up behind Ramona Bachmann who was the most advanced of the attacking players.
Bethany England remained on the bench against the side she played for on loan last season. Millie Bright, who was rested from Lionesses duty to aid her rehab from injury, was also among the subs.
There had been stormy conditions across the UK for the past two days and the wind was still blustery at kick-off at Prenton Park, the home of Tranmere Rovers. The pitch was worn and bumpy too.
Despite the conditions, it was a fast start by Chelsea with Cuthbert and Blundell, and when she switched wings, Carney causing the Reds problems down their left.
The wind appeared to be causing some difficulties however, with players on occasions over-compensating when playing a pass long or taking set-pieces. Kirby was one affected when she collected the ball from a corner played deep and lofted the ball well over.
That was on the quarter-of-an-hour mark but it only took Super Fran another minute to find a route goal and open the scoring with Chelsea’s first shot on-target. This time the ball was played short, along the ground and through the middle. Kirby combined with Bachmann in a swift move and one-on-one with the goalie, she coolly finished from 10 yards out.
Just five minutes later it was 2-0, this time Kirby finding the net from the penalty spot after her initial shot was handled on the ground by a Liverpool defender.
That was midway through the half and not long after, the England striker tried an ambitious attempt to make it a first-half hat-trick. Her shot from outside the area was not far away either!
An even better attempt to make it 3-0 before the break, Cuthbert’s fierce header from Carney’s pinpoint cross, was only denied by a fine, flying save by Anke Preuss in the Reds goal.
Chelsea continued to press for more leading up to the interval while when Liverpool tried to attack, their efforts were fruitless against a composed and very solid Blues rearguard. Berger had only been called upon once to race off her line and make a claim.
Her opposite number, Preuss, just about kept the ball out from under her bar early in the second half as the wind again played its part. That was after Jonna Andersson had done excellently out wide and crossed. Blundell, following up, went close with a low 20-yarder.
It didn’t take much longer for the third Chelsea goal and as with the first, it was a Bachmann pass that was collected by Kirby. One step into space later, she struck a shot which Preuss got a touch on but could not keep out.
The hat-trick hero could have added one more when she volleyed powerfully past the post but this performance was not just about Kirby. There was quality all across the pitch from those in blue, and the night was capped off seconds from the end when substitute Engman looped a header from Bachmann’s cross just under the bar and in.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Berger; Blundell, Mjelde (Cooper 66), Eriksson, Andersson (Riley 73), Carter, Spence; Cuthbert (Engman 66), Kirby, Carney (c); Bachmann.
Unused subs Lindahl, Bright, Ji, England.
Scorers Kirby 16, 22, 51, Engman 90+2
Liverpool Preuss; Robe, Bradley-Auckland, Little, Purfield, Rodgers, Fahey, Coombs (Kearns 84), Sweetman-Kirk, Daniels (Hodson 64), Linnett (Babajide 52).
Unused subs Kitching, Murray.
Booked Little 39