Sam Kerr was the star performer for Chelsea as we progressed to the fifth round of the Women’s FA Cup courtesy of a 3-2 victory over Liverpool at Kingsmeadow.
Sam Kerr bagged a stunning hat-trick to see off the challenge of Matt Beard’s Reds and book our place into the next round, but we were made to work for our win.
A goal from Kerr either side of the half-time whistle put us into a 2-0 lead, before a stunning Ceri Holland drive halved the deficit.
Kerr then sealed her hat-trick to restore our two-goal advantage before Gemma Bonner bundled the ball home with five minutes remaining to make it 3-2 and set up a nervy ending.
In the end, Emma Hayes’s side saw out the tie to confirm our place in the next round.
Emma Hayes made three changes to the side that defeated Tottenham in the Conti Cup in midweek, with Sophie Ingle, Jelena Cankovic and Eve Perisset replaced by Jessie Fleming, Fran Kirby and Niamh Charles.
Ingle and Cankovic were named among the substitutes, while Perisset missed out through injury.
Charles slotted in at right-back, while Fleming joined Erin Cuthbert in midfield and Kirby was deployed just behind lone striker Sam Kerr.
Chelsea were quick to stamp our authority on this cup tie, with the Blues dominating proceedings from pretty much the off.
Chances were at a premium though, with Fran Kirby unfortunate not to get onto the end of a cross after 12 minutes, as Liverpool defended with a solid low block.
The Blues did go close to an opener after 25 minutes, as Lauren James looped over a high cross towards Kerr but her header lacked power and the goalkeeper cleared before Jessie Fleming could pounce.
Chelsea kept knocking at the door and were rewarded with the opener just after the half-hour mark, with Kerr scoring in spectacular style.
It was the same combination linking up, as James picked out the overlapping Niamh Charles with a wonderful searching ball over the top for the galloping right-back to send over a cross for Kerr.
The Australian slipped away from her marker before swivelling and lashing a superb right-footed volley into the top corner.
Captain Magda Eriksson entered the fray after the break, replacing Kadeisha Buchanan who limped off with a knock, but it was the visitors who started the second half the stronger.
Zecira Musovic conceded a corner after misjudging a bouncing ball, while Megan Campbell’s dangerous long throws were causing some issues when launched into our box.
Chelsea responded to that early Liverpool pressure by carving up a couple of chances of our own, with Guro Reiten feeding Fleming but the Canadian’s through-ball for James was just too far ahead of the forward and the chance went by.
Moments later, Fleming tried her luck but her effort flashed wide of the target.
Doubling our lead
It wasn’t to matter, as moments later Chelsea did double our lead with Kerr helping herself to a second of the tie.
Kirby found the Australian with a superbly weighted pass and Kerr was on hand to sweep the ball home with ease.
It was a fine finish that she made look routine, such is her quality, and the striker was hungry for more.
Liverpool hit back
The visitors could see their FA Cup dream slipping away from them, so they made a change in shape and went more attacking and the response was immediate.
First, Missy Bo Kearns was played in before she fired wide from the edge of the box after fashioning a good bit of space for herself.
We didn’t heed to that warning as the Reds halved the deficit after 61 minutes as Holland scored a goal to rival Kerr’s opener for strike of the game.
Kearns showed some neat footwork to turn in the box and tee up Holland, who hammered the ball into the far corner from distance and leaving Musovic with no chance.
That same combination went close to levelling the tie shortly after, with Kearns crossing for Holland whose header at goal was kept out by Musovic.
Chance to finish it off
That Liverpool spell of pressure sparked the Blues back into action and Kerr was gifted with a perfect chance to grab her hat-trick.
A loose backpass that was played blind released Kerr, the Australian then rounded the goalkeeper but had forced herself a little too wide and with the angle diminishing, she could only find the side-netting via a deflection.
Kerr gets her treble
However, there’s just no stopping Sam Kerr!
The Chelsea No.20 grabbed hers and Chelsea’s third of the afternoon to seal the win, with Kerr in the right place to head home Charles’s deep cross with 10 minutes remaining.
In fact, she could have netted a fourth second latest as she was slipped in after we robbed Liverpool of possession but on this occasion her low drive whistled past the far post.
That wasn’t the end of the goals at Kingsmeadow though, as Liverpool pulled a goal back through Bonner with five minutes remaining .
A high cross was nodded back into the danger area and the unmarked Bonner was able to sweep the ball home from close range to set up a nervy ending to this cup tie.
However, we showed our professionalism to see the game out and book our place in the next round of the competition that we won last season.
A London derby with Tottenham awaits the Blues next, as we travel to north London on Sunday, February 5.
That’s a WSL clash and gets underway at 12.30pm UK time.
Chelsea: Musovic; Charles, Buchanan (Eriksson 46), Bright (c), Carter; Fleming, Cuthbert (Leupolz 83); James (Ingle 68), Kirby (Mjelde 79), Reiten (Rytting Kaneryd 68); Kerr.
Subs: Berger, Abdullina, Cankovic.
Liverpool: Laws; Koivisto (Robe 77), Fahey, Matthews, Campbell (Hinds 58); Nagano, Holland; Daniels (Bonner 58), Kearns (Lundgaard 69), Lawley; Stengel.
Subs: Kirby, Cumings, Silcock, Humphrey, Furness.