Ladies report: Chelsea 1 Liverpool 0

Chelsea Ladies continued our perfect start to the season on Saturday lunchtime with Maren Mjelde's early goal securing a narrow victory over Liverpool.

Back at Kingsmeadow following consecutive 6-0 wins in the Women’s Super League and a 1-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the first leg of our Champions League last-32 tie, the Blues passed an early test of our title credentials with a 1-0 win and a dominant display.

A third goal of the season from Mjelde on 14 minutes proved the difference as Chelsea clinched our sixth league victory in a row against the two-time WSL1 champions.

On top of achieving our fourth successive clean sheet, a rotated Chelsea XI showed the attacking strength that has brought us to top of the table with a +13 goal difference.

The WSL 1 leaders returned to Kingston with six changes to the team who earned our hard-fought win in midweek. Becky Spencer began in goal for the first time since our 2016 campaign behind the consistent back three of Millie Bright, Gilly Flaherty and Magdalena Eriksson, with midfield pivots Katie Chapman and Mjelde the other players to keep their starting berth.

Emma Hayes gave a more offensive flavour to the flanks as Gemma Davison came back in for Maria Thorisdottir on the left wing, while Crystal Dunn, who returned from injury as a substitute against Bayern, made her first start of the new winter season instead of Hannah Blundell on the right. Erin Cuthbert led a revamped Blues frontline ahead of Ji So-Yun and Karen Carney.

The Liverpool line-up featured a number of familiar faces with six former Chelsea players in their starting XI. Scott Rogers stuck with the 4-3-3 formation employed in their previous games, a win against Everton and loss to Reading, comprising a midfield made up entirely of ex-Blues Sophie Ingle, Kate Longhurst and Laura Coombs. Also returning to their old club were Reds goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain, alongside centre-backs Gemma Bonner and Casey Stoney.

It was almost a dream start for the home side when Eriksson found Ji in acres of space with a wonderful cross inside the first couple of minutes, and the South Korean only just missed the target.

Cuthbert had an early shot blocked on the edge of the box after Carney forced her way to the byline with a nimble run down the left, but enough defenders were back to keep the Blues at bay.

Liverpool looked to threaten using the pace of Jess Clarke through the central channel and put together a strong spell of possession around the 10-minute mark before Chelsea took the lead.

The stream of Blue on the left wing turned into a torrent as a fleet-footed drive from Davison brought in Mjelde, who fired a wonderful strike through a sea of defenders low into the far corner.

Chelsea nearly found further reward for our patient build-up play when Dunn filtered the ball through to Carney, whose shot was narrowly turned behind. Our attackers tried to turn the screw with a succession of corners midway through the first period and required some last-ditch defending by Liverpool to prevent Ji from converting.

Cuthbert had a good chance to score after latching onto an inch-perfect ball after 35 minutes but the 19-year-old could not quite beat Chamberlain on the stretch in a 50-50 challenge.

Davison, who won two league titles during a spell on Merseyside, was once again integral for Hayes’s side. Her booking before the break was the only blot on her brilliant first-half performance.

The Blues were not far from repeating our flying start after the interval when a curling cross from Carney almost crept in at the far post. The England international would have become our 10th different goalscorer at this early stage of the campaign.

There was a sudden let-off for the hosts as Clarke found herself through on goal but her first touch was too heavy for the forward to bear down on Spencer.

Cuthbert was replaced on the hour mark as Fran Kirby and co continued to pile on the pressure. Dunn and Davison seemed to be swapping flanks incessantly and posed constant problems for the Reds back four, forced to put bodies on the line.

Mjelde had another great effort with a bending shot from 20 yards that tested Chamberlain, and substitutes Drew Spence and Eni Aluko were entrusted to lead the attack in run-up to full time. The chances came in dribs and drabs as Liverpool inevitably started to push players forward, with Aluko denied by a fine save from Chamberlain.

Chelsea held on for our fourth win in a fortnight and attention now turns to Wednesday night with the second leg of our Champions League last-32 tie against Bayern Munich. Kick-off is at 7pm local time (6pm UK time) and the game is live on Chelsea TV.

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Spencer; Bright, Flaherty, Eriksson; Dunn, Chapman, Mjelde, Davison; Ji (Spence 76), Carney (Aluko 83); Cuthbert (Kirby 60)
Unused subs Thorisdottir, Blundell, Rafferty, Telford
Scorers Mjelde 14
Booked Davison 43

Liverpool Chamberlain, Bonner, Ingle, Stoney, Greenwood, Murray, Longhurst, Coombs, Charles (Weir 74), Clarke (Hodson 74), Harding
Unused subs Flaherty, Fletcher, Harris, Johnson

Crowd 2,116