Chelsea Women have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals after a first-half strike from Guro Reiten helped the Blues to a much-deserved 1-0 win over Liverpool.
The Blues dominated proceedings from the first whistle and after some missed opportunities in the early stages, Reiten gave Chelsea the lead just before the half-hour mark.
The Norwegian was found by a neat flick-on from former Liverpool player Sophie Ingle and Reiten finished emphatically by firing a volley past the keeper to make it 1-0.
Erin Cuthbert and Maren Mjelde both went close to extending the Blues advantage and although the visitors created one or two half-chances deep into the second half, Chelsea looked more than comfortable in defence and held out to earn the victory and progress to the last eight of the FA Cup where we will play Everton away.
Emma Hayes made just two changes to the side that beat Birmingham 2-0 at Kingsmeadow last Wednesday with Ann-Katrin Berger replacing Carly Telford in goal and Ji So-Yun, having returned from international duty with South Korea, coming back into the starting XI with Drew Spence dropping to the bench.
Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, captain Magda Eriksson and Jonna Andersson made up the back four sitting behind a midfield of Mjelde on the right, Ji and Ingle in the middle with Reiten occupying the left flank.
Tasked with leading the line was Blues top scorer Beth England and Scotland international Cuthbert, who had recovered following a knock in our last outing against Birmingham.
Alongside Spence and Telford on the bench was Maria Thorisdottir, Jess Carter, Adelina Engman, Ramona Bachmann and Sam Kerr, who returns to the squad after missing our last four games due to her involvement in Olympic qualifiers with Australia.
Storm Dennis meant tonight’s fixture was pushed back from Sunday afternoon to Monday evening but despite the slight disruption to their preparations, the Blues began the game on the front foot and dominated possession in the early stages of the game.
The first real opening of the match came after 15 minutes when Reiten found Cuthbert and the forward ran at the Liverpool defence with pace but her goal-bound effort was blocked by well by the Reds defender.
It wasn’t long before another opportunity came for the Blues and Reiten was involved again. The Norwegian managed to create some space for herself before she teed up Ji on the edge of the box, but the South Korean’s low drive was saved well by the Liverpool keeper.
Just moments later and Reiten came inches away from putting her side in front following good work from Mjelde and Andersson.
The latter found Mjelde with a deep cross and she picked out her fellow Norwegian unmarked in the box but Reiten’s effort was cleared off the line by a Liverpool defender.
There would be nothing anyone could do to deny Reiten just minutes later as the midfielder opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark with a sublime effort.
Ingle found Reiten in the box and she rifled a left-footed volley past the keeper and into the back of the net to give the Blues a much-deserved lead.
Chelsea nearly doubled our advantage just before the break and this time it was Mjelde who came close to scoring. After the visitors failed to clear their lines, the ball came to Mjelde on the right-hand side of the box and she struck an effort which flew just inches over the crossbar.
The Blues began the second half just as they started the first, dominating possession and looking comfortable on the ball, but Liverpool managed to keep us at bay in terms of creating any clear-cut opportunities up until the hour mark when they had their keeper to thank for keeping them in this FA Cup tie.
A drop of the shoulder and Cuthbert turned the defender on the edge of the box before firing a low strike which was heading for the bottom corner, only for the Reds keeper to be equal to her effort.
With 15 minutes remaining, Spence and Kerr entered the fray replacing Ji and Blundell as we looked to freshen things up in search for a second goal.
But instead it was the visitors who nearly found a late equaliser as Niamh Charles struck a powerful effort. Luckily for the Blues, Berger was alert and saved well.
Chelsea seemed to sure up at the back after that opportunity for the visitors and we managed to hold on to secure a place in the last eight of the FA Cup where we will face a trip to Everton.
For now, though, Chelsea will turn their attentions to the league as they travel to Manchester City on Sunday for a vital game in the run-in for the Women’s Super League title.
Chelsea (4-4-2) Berger; Blundell (Kerr 75), Bright, Eriksson (c), Andersson; Mjelde, Ingle, Ji (Spence 75), Reiten; England (Bachmann 88), CuthbertUnused subs: Telford; Thorisdottir, Carter, Engman.Scorer: Reiten 26
Liverpool (4-4-2) Preuss; Fahey, Bradley-Auckland, Lawley, Hodson (Clarke 74), Charles, Jane (Robe 45), Purfield, Linnett (Murray 78), Furness.Unused subs: Foster, Rogers, Roberts.