The Liverpool Ladies tied up the 2017-2018 season on Sunday when the league champions Chelsea came all the way to Prenton Park, having wrapped up the title midweek. In what seemed like typical fashion, the Ladies got off to a fantastic start, going up two goals within the first ten minutes, only to be overtaken in the second half. The Reds ultimately lost as Chelsea staged a dramatic comeback from the bench to seal their unbeaten record for the year.
I’d say this match was a pretty good snapshot for how the season has gone for the Reds. Good starts and disappointing finishes as they were dealt injury blows and retirements throughout the season made it difficult to mount a challenge for the title this year, and difficult for supporters.
Hopes were high on Sunday at Prenton Park, as Jess Clarke scored for the Reds hardly a minute in, setting the tone for the match. Clarke picked up a deflected ball from Caroline Weir and was able to send it home, putting the home side ahead to start things off.
It was all only made better when Niamh Charles scored from 15 yards out, after pouncing on a failed clearance by Chelsea. Not even nine minutes in and the Reds were up two-nil and ready to cruise through the rest of the match. Of course, we all know cruising is not what’s best recommended for any Liverpool side.
Chelsea rallied from there and Millie Bright nearly halved the deficit when she went for a goal at 15 minutes in. Her header from a corner flew just barely wide, thankfully. Liverpool were able to maintain their lead through the first half, with Satara Murray and captain Gemma Bonner doing well to manage the defenses against a lethal Chelsea attack. It certainly didn’t help to have Eni Aluko coming at them often.
Liverpool seemed to go into the second half a bit more cocky, but ultimately unable to get any decent attacks started. Thankfully, neither were Chelsea, as the Reds worked hard to contain them, apparently to their own detriment. It took nearly 20 minutes for someone else to score, and score they did, as Aluko caught a lofted ball and slotted it home gracefully to get the Blues back into the game. That goal marked the 100th scored for Chelsea and a farewell, as Aluko had announced earlier this week she would be leaving Chelsea this summer.
That one was all the Blues needed apparently to really get started, as Liverpool seemed defeated from that moment on. Ji So-Yun, who had come on for Gemma Davison in the 51st minute, proved to be the game changer by scoring an equalizer in the 80th minute with a gorgeous volley from 18 yards out. It took only three more minutes for her to score the game winner and seal Chelsea’s unbeaten season (grumble grumble), following a clever pass from Fran Kirby.
So ends another FAWSL season, with Chelsea completing back-to-back league titles and Liverpool sending off another staunch stalwart of a player in Siobhan Chamberlain. Chamberlain announced earlier this week that she would not be renewing her contract with the Reds as it’s set to expire this summer, and we’d all hoped for a better send off than this. Back-to-back losses are not the way Reds would’ve liked to end anything and here we are. The losses this season were more dramatic and jarring than ever, and hopefully it leads the higher ups on this side of the club to take a deeper look into what we need because this feels more like a demolition than a rebuild.