Liverpool Ladies suffered a heavy home league defeat to Chelsea Ladies in front of a 1000+ strong crowd in Widnes; PFA Player of the Year Ji So-Yun scored twice and England’s Eni Aluko and Fran Kirby bagged a goal each.
The Reds lined up in a 3-5-2 formation – Natasha Dowie given a partner up front in Line Smorsgard and Katie Zelem playing just behind them. Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir completed the midfield line-up with Ingrid Ryland at left-wing-back and Rosie White on the right.
Libby Started started in goal behind the back 3 of Martha Harris, Satara Murray and Gemma Bonner.
The formation gave Liverpool a lot of width in contrast to the narrow Chelsea set-up, Ryland and White both consistently finding themselves with a lot of space on the wings – Ryland in particular impressing out wide and with the Reds first real chance of the game after Staniforth’s ball picked her out on the wing, the Norwegian beat Hannah Blundell to unleash a strike from outside the box but hitting the woodwork.
With the effort coming midway through the first half, this saw the beginning of a short period of time wherein Liverpool were on top and had Chelsea pinned around their own box.
Just moments after Ryland hit the post, Liverpool had Chelsea rattled again; White winning a corner after seeing her cross blocked and sending the set piece towards Bonner who’s header also crashed off the frame of the goal. Murray sent the rebound back out to White, who played a one-two with Staniforth before sending another cross into the box but this was cleared.
The visiting team had temporarily been reduced to 10 after Niamh Fahey was forced to leave to pitch for stitches after a clash with Dowie, but Liverpool were unable to capitalize on the slight advantage and would be left cursing the crossbar as Chelsea took the lead.
Aluko had initially been forced away by Bonner but Davison on the opposite wing had better luck, crossing to So-Yun who controlled the ball well at the edge of the 6-yard box and finished past Stout to make it 1-0.
Stout then denied Kirby from going through on goal after a well-timed run eluded the defence, the no.1 with a sliding challenge outside of her area.
This was followed by a wonderful solo effort from Zelem, who went on a driving run through the centre of the pitch to shoot from 30 yards – striking the ball cleanly dipping towards the top corner and Swedish international Hedvig Lindahl punching it out for a corner.
Liverpool were pressing for an equaliser as Bonner pressed high up the pitch to receive a long ball from Staniforth by the corner flag, the captain’s cross deflected out for a throw from which White was unable to put the ball inside the box.
5 minutes before half-time, Chelsea doubled their lead after Aluko cut the ball back to the waiting Kirby who made no mistakes from 6 yards out.
Liverpool had made a change at the break as Maz Pacheco came on for Ryland, this bringing no change in formation.
The lop-sided scoreline going into the second-half barely told the story of the game, Liverpool had had an abundance of activity in and around the box with numerous corners yet had been unlucky with hitting the post twice and perhaps just not being as clinical as the Londoners.
Less than 10 minutes after half-time, Chelsea got the killer 3rd goal when Aluko pounced on a back pass to put herself on the score sheet after getting the earlier assist for Kirby.
Before this Liverpool had continued to get the ball forward, Bonner’s forward pass looking for Dowie and then Smorsgard with a neat cross from the outside of her boot.
The Reds refused to give up and at 3-0 White was unlucky not to pull a goal back after an excellent run from Harris, cutting in from the right to tee up the New Zealander for a strike that went inches wide.
Both Ashley Hodson and Asisat Oshoala took to the pitch replacing Staniforth and Smorsgard, the latter making her return from a 2-month injury lay off and looking bright – a nice pull back and looping cross into the box looking for fellow substitute Hodson but caught by Lindahl.
It would finish 4-0, Chelsea firmly placing themselves back at the top of the league table with one game to play – So Yun had opened the scoring and finished it with Davison once again providing the cross.
Into injury time at the end of the 90 minutes, Stout was caught by Borges with the Reds keeper going down clutching her shoulder and requiring treatment on the pitch. With a number of important games coming up from next week, Liverpool will be hoping Stout’s injury wasn’t serious
Full-time: Liverpool Ladies 0 – 4 Chelsea Ladies
LIVERPOOL XI Stout, Bonner (C), Murray, Harris, White, Omarsdottir, Staniforth, Ryland (Pacheco), Zelem, Smorsgard, Dowie
PLAYER OF THE MATCH Martha Harris