MATCH REPORT: Chelsea Ladies 1 – 0 Liverpool Ladies

 Despite giving their all throughout the 90 minutes, Liverpool Ladies fell to a 1-0 defeat away at Chelsea Ladies earlier today.

 PFA Player of the Year nominee Eni Aluko scored the only goal of the game after audaciously chipping the ball over Libby Stout; Fara Williams had the chance to equalise for the Reds after Aluko handballed in the penalty area, but her spot kick hit the post.

Liverpool after the final whistle

 Liverpool were unchanged from the side that beat Birmingham City at the beginning of the month, Libby Stout in goal behind a back four of Martha Harris, captain Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray and Corina Schroder from right to left.

 Becky Easton retained her place in defensive midfield, Kate Longhurst partnering Fara Williams in the centre of midfield just ahead of her, Asisat Oshoala on the right, Line Smorsgard on the left and Natasha Dowie up front.

 The Reds had just 4 substitutes on the bench, Katrin Omarsdottir with the Development Squad back on Merseyside and scoring in their 8-0 win. Nicole Rolser was also missing from the match day squad, despite having travelled with the team.

 During an end-to-end first half Liverpool defended well against a Chelsea side that had scored 14 goals in their previous 4 games. The home side twice attempted to mount attacks down the right wing, Corina Schroder and Line Smorsgard combining well with Smorsgard in particular impressing to get back and cover.

 Martha Harris also dealt well with an early Gemma Davison run, getting across to halt the former Liverpool winger in her tracks. As a whole Liverpool dealt well with the threat of Davison, who has had an excellent start to her career at Chelsea, breaking up the partnership between her and Eni Aluko proved crucial to holding the Blues off during the early stages of the game.

 Chelsea’s Player of the Year Ji So-Yun was also dealt with effectively by Gemma Bonner, the Reds captain did brilliantly to clear from the South Korean after she had beaten both Satara Murray and Libby Stout. Late in the first half Bonner also made a well-timed sliding challenge in the box, again to deny So-Yun the opportunity to shoot.

Gemma Bonner & Ji So-Yun

 Liverpool arguably were the better side of the first half, with the better chances and no fewer than 5 corners. Fara Williams’ set pieces each heading towards the back post with Bonner on the end of 2; one header over the crossbar and the other headed goal-wards but the referee had blown for a foul in the box.

 Asisat Oshoala once again impressed in a Red shirt, making a number of forward runs, beating the defender on one but Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl intercepting. Oshoala also did well early on, winning a throw in by the corner flag from which Natasha Dowie could earn a corner, and on the stroke of half-time almost broke through the Chelsea defence again only to be flagged for offside in what must have been an extremely tight decision, it certainly looked on from the sidelines.

 As strong as Martha Harris has been in defence as of late, the young full-back has also been getting into good positions further up the pitch. A lovely cutting ball midway through the first half skimming past everyone in the 18-yard box and unfortunate that there was no red shirt to connect .

 Half-time: Chelsea Ladies 0 – 0 Liverpool Ladies

 With the teams back out for the second half, the game continued much the same way as the first 45. A Chelsea strike going wide of the post before minutes later Gemma Bonner’s free kick was almost flicked into the path of Line Smorsgard by Natasha Dowie.

 Dowie also made a great run down the left wing, passing the ball around the right-back, picking it up and cutting a pass back to Kate Longhurst. Longhurst hit a first time pass quickly towards Dowie, but the Liverpool no.9 couldn’t get back to pick it up.

 The home side then took the lead; building up the play patiently passing the ball around in midfield before Laura Coombs set up Eni Aluko to chip the ball over Libby Stout. Aluko looked to have injured herself celebrating, remaining off the pitch for several minutes afterwards.

Becky Easton

 Liverpool almost replied immediately, Asisat Oshoala on yet another strong run into the 18-yard box; Oshoala’s run was matched the whole way by Chelsea defender Claire Rafferty, forcing the Nigerian to shoot from a tight angle and the strike to go inches wide.

 The visitors began to enjoy their most dominant spell of the game, Gemma Bonner winning the ball from Ji So-Yun midway in the Liverpool half and playing a long ball forwards for Natasha Dowie.

 Oshoala won the Reds their 6th corner of the game, this being cleared but only as far as Martha Harris. Harris knocked the ball back to Gemma Bonner before Liverpool were awarded a free kick 25 yards out.

 Fara Williams stepped up, her strike blocked by the hand of Eni Aluko with the referee correctly pointing to the penalty spot. Williams sent Lindahl the wrong way but the spot kick bounced back off the post and Chelsea were able to clear their lines.

 Liverpool refused to give up the search for an equaliser, Williams and Oshoala seem to be building a good understanding on the pitch; with the latter almost picking out the former with a cross moments before Williams through ball to Oshoala resulted in an collision on the edge of the box.

 Matt Beard used all 3 of his substitutes during the final 15 minutes, Ingrid Ryland coming on for Corina Schroder meaning Martha Harris switched to left back. Lucy Staniforth also replaced Line Smorsgard and Kate Longhurst came off for Katie Zelem.

 In the closing stages Chelsea tried their best to keep the ball at the corner flag, with Liverpool continuing to press and throwing everybody forward – a Dowie cross almost reaching Harris and Staniforth also almost finding Harris after a lovely turn and flick, keeping the ball in and playing it short to the full-back.

 As Gemma Bonner tried to kick start one final Liverpool attack, Gemma Davison closed her down, the ball going out of play and the referee blowing for full-time.

 XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Murray, Schroder (Ryland), Easton, Smorsgard (Staniforth), Williams, Longhurst (Zelem), Oshoala, Dowie

 POTM Gemma Bonner

 Liverpool will feel hard done by with the defeat, and rightly so, the Reds deserved at least a point from the hard fought battle. Next up Liverpool face Manchester City, beaten 1-0 by Arsenal Ladies today with stand-in captain Jill Scott sent off, next Sunday 26th April. 6pm kick off, Select Security Stadium, Widnes.

 Also next Sunday, the Development Squad will face Birmingham City, 2pm at Rainhill High School in a replay of last week’s Development Cup semi-final. The tie needing to be replayed due to a refereeing error.

 Thanks to Emma Clarke for the pictures used in this blog!

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