REPORT: CHELSEA LADIES 6 LIVERPOOL LADIES 3

Katie Zelem’s opening goal within the first minute gave Liverpool the best possible start away at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.
The reigning champions then showing their ruthless streak; Karen Carney’s equaliser followed by goals from Fran Kirby, Drew Spence and Eni Aluko ensuring the Blues went in 4-1 up at half-time.
Liverpool almost turned it around in the second half. Caroline Weir converting a free kick and substitute Emma Lundh further reducing the deficit yet Kirby and Spence both netted their second of the game for the tie to finish 6-3 to Chelsea.
The score line equalling the all-time WSL record for most goals scored in a single game, matching Liverpool’s 9-0 victory over Doncaster in 2013.
Laura Coombs was once again unavailable to play against parent club Chelsea, Kate Longhurst replacing her in the line-up and playing on the right of a back four consisting of the returning Alex Greenwood at left-back, centre back duo Gemma Bonner and Mandy Van Den Berg and Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
Coombs was the only change to the side defeated at Notts County last week, Natasha Harding back playing in the more familiar position of left wing, Shanice Van De Sanden on the right and Sophie Ingle, Katie Zelem, Caroline Weir and Rosie White completing the side.
Zelem had scored twice in the final 10 minutes of the previous league game and picked up where she left off here, a wonderful move from Liverpool seeing them move the ball quickly up the pitch, setting the pace for what would come to be a high tempo game.
Starting with Van Den Berg at the back and ending with Harding teeing up Zelem to let fly, the long range hit giving Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl no chance and putting Liverpool in the lead after just 57 seconds.
A bright start from Liverpool was followed by a tough 44 minutes, from the restart coming under heavy pressure and at first withstanding the full throttle Chelsea attack.
Kirby breaking into the area only to be challenged by Van Den Berg and the resulting set piece headed away by Longhurst.
The England international then chased a long ball over the top only to be thwarted by Chamberlain coming out off her line to send it into the stand.
Chelsea went back in again, and again Liverpool cleared. The ball skimming the 6-yard box dangerously close to goal, headed back across by Carney to fall at the feet at Bonner who got it away.
The defence eventually buckled, the Reds holding their lead for 8 minutes before Kirby put Carney through to round Chamberlain and slot the ball over the line.
Liverpool had chances to retake the lead. A charging run by Harding down the left wing winning a corner which fell to Ingle, her volley closed down and blocked.
Then another fast move seen several Reds shirts racing forward; Van De Sanden, White and Weir moving the ball across the pitch with ease and Weir was unlucky to watch as her superb strike was tipped over the crossbar.
Chelsea’s counter attacking football was causing the Reds trouble at the other end of the pitch and Chamberlain was thrice called upon.
The goalkeeper gathering efforts from Ji So-Yun and Carney, and also wise to a clever pass to prevent Aluko finding the run of Katie Chapman.
The game was end-to-end and Liverpool themselves almost created a chance from a counter attack. Bonner heading to Longhurst, out to Weir, onto Van De Sanden but Harding – who had gotten herself into a good position in the box – was closed down and couldn’t connect with the final ball.
Shortly after this Chelsea went ahead, Kirby’s completing a solo move after dribbling past several Red shirts to score her first goal of the afternoon.
Thereafter until the end of the first half it continued to be the Blues who looked the more threatening of the two sides and they would add 2 more goals before the break.
Kirby again the provider this time for Drew Spence to score after making a run from deep, and Aluko latching onto Carney’s through ball to make it 4.
Out for the second half, the pace of the game was maintained despite the intense heat.
Impressive Chelsea left-back Hannah Blundell finding Carney with a good delivery but she directed her header over the bar.
10 minutes in and Scott Rogers made a double substitution, Emma Lundh and Maz Pacheco coming on for Harding and Greenwood. The duo taking to the pitch as Liverpool were setting up to take a free kick won by Van De Sanden.
Weir struck the set piece sweetly with her left foot, the ball worming its way through the mass of bodies in the box to end up in the back of the net.
A minute later Lundh further reduced the deficit, Liverpool this time capitalising on Chelsea’s failure to clear their lines and the no.9 smashing the ball past Lindahl to make it 4-3 – her first league goal for the club.
The Reds now had hope, back in the game and in search of an equaliser with over half an hour still to play. Credit must be given to the side for getting themselves back in this position, with many having written them off after the first half.
Van De Sanden and Weir the stand outs, the latter at one stage displaying excellent close control to get the ball up the line to the overlapping Pacheco. Pacheco bombed on, her cross snuffed out at the edge of the box.
Another set of quick fire goals would follow, Kirby and Spence both scoring their second to re-extend the Chelsea lead.
Blundell had won the ball high up the pitch, carrying it forward and seeing her cross take a lucky deflection into the path of Kirby to score Chelsea’s 5th. Kirby made it a hat-trick of assists to set Spence up for the final goal.
From here on Liverpool had to be alert to prevent conceding another as the chances continued to flow.
Bonner cutting out a Carney cross intended for Kirby, Chamberlain reacting well to stop Chapman’s header crossing the line as the Blues captain headed Carney’s rebound off the crossbar back towards goal and substitute Ashley Hodson, who had not long replaced White, clearing off the line.
In recent days the Reds have been praised for their never-say-die spirit and this was evident here as Van De Sanden both had shots blocked from successive corners – Longhurst’s ball back in caught by the keeper.
While in injury time another blazing run by Van De Sanden had the Dutch winging finding Lundh, who tried to turn and was quickly closed down by Gilly Flaherty.
Another disappointing afternoon for Liverpool, who can perhaps take heart from the fact they are the first team to put 3 past Chelsea at home in almost 2 years. The side punished by defensive errors, which a team as good as Chelsea will use to their advantage.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Longhurst, Bonner ©, Van Den Berg, Greenwood (Pacheco), Ingle, Zelem, White (Hodson), Harding (Lundh), Weir, Van De Sanden
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Shanice Van De Sanden

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