Liverpool 2 - 1 Chelsea
Liverpool: Stengel 67’ (penalty), 87’ (penalty)
Chelsea: Kirby 3’ (penalty)
Liverpool are finally about to kick off their return to the WSL! The big news before kickoff is the absence of new signing Shanice van de Sanden. Apparently she has an achilles problem. Hopefully it isn’t serious as she has been sensational during preseason.
Gilly Flaherty joins last season’s stalwarts Niamh Fahey and Jasmine Matthews in the center of defense. Emma Koivisto is also given her competitive debut for Liverpool at right wing back. With no van de Sanden, Leanne Kiernan is given the start as one of the wide forwards flanking Katie Stengel.
TEAM NEWS— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) September 18, 2022
Our first line-up of the 2022/23 @barclayswsl season! pic.twitter.com/pI9uhOBqxP
It’s a great turnout for the Reds are Prenton Park. There are just over 3,000 fans on hand for the match, which is a club record at the ground!
3,006 in attendance at Prenton Park which is a new record for Liverpool women at this ground. #LFC— Emma Sanders (@em_sandy) September 18, 2022
And away we go! Chelsea kick off to get the match underway at Prenton Park.
Chelsea make the first attacking move in the first minute, with a shot stinging the palms of Rachael Laws. The ball is partially cleared, and Gilly Flaherty turns to try and clear the ball, and ends up kicking the ankle of Guro Reiten after the Chelsea player got a toe to the ball first. Flaherty had no idea Reiten was there, but the referee immediately points to the spot, awarding a very soft penalty to start the match. Fran Kirby steps up, and coolly sends Laws the wrong way for a 1-0 lead. Not a great way to start things out.
Liverpool get their first attacking move, but Katie Stengel can’t connect on a pass and Chelsea immediately counter. Fran Kirby shows off her pace to try and get behind Niamh Fahey and Gilly Flaherty, but Liverpool are able to cut out an attempted pass to thwart the danger.
Liverpool get the ball forward through Lianne Kiernan down the left flank. She lays it back to Ceri Holland, who does a great job to drive towards the end line to get a shot off that Zecira Musovic struggles to deal with in net. Emma Koivisto follows up, but she can only get a knee to the ball, and pops it over the crossbar. Great move all around for the Reds.
Ceri Holland becomes the first player into the book with a yellow card in the 18th minute. She pulled on a Chelsea player’s jersey around midfield, and the referee blew the whistle for the professional foul.
Sam Kerr is twice flagged for offside in short order, finishing the second chance with a great volley. Both times she looked to be onside, but the lineswoman called play back to the relief of Liverpool fans.
After several minutes of pressure from Chelsea, Liverpool finally show off some of the fluidity and attacking verve we saw last season. It all started from Missy Bo Kearns winning a header in midfield, and the ball was quickly progressed up the field before it was slipped through to Leanne Kiernan. Unfortunately the Irishwoman failed to hold her run, and the flag went up for offside after her shot hit off the base of the post.
Chelsea immediately come back on the attack through Sam Kerr, and Racheal Laws does extremely well to come out and force the Australian striker wide. Liverpool get their defense back in shape and are able to clear the danger.
Liverpool are getting an introduction to the speed of play at the top level. The Reds have had a few nice moments, but it seems like the players are getting pressured a half-beat faster than they expect, leading to wayward passes or turnovers.
No surprise that Chelsea are seeing the lions share of possession, but Liverpool are doing a solid job of tracking runners and taking away the easy options in and around the box. Don’t get me wrong, there has also been some frantic clearances as well, but it’s been a solid display all things considered.
Liverpool stay composed through a few late scrambles and see out the half, trailing only 1-0 despite conceding a penalty in the third minute.
No changes for either side at the half, and Liverpool get the match back underway. Melissa Lawley immediately makes her presence known with a great run down the left, but her cross can’t find a Liverpool player in the box.
Liverpool are seeing more of the ball early in the second half. They seem to be doing a better job of expecting pressure when on the ball, and are getting passes off more quickly to allow for better ball retention and progression up the field.
Leanne Kiernan makes a run down the channel to chase a ball down, and she gets her ankle rolled up by a sliding challenge from behind by Kadeisha Buchanan. It was a very poor tackle, but the referee doesn’t deign to give a foul. Kiernan stays down, and then has to be withdrawn after a lengthy spell of treatment on the field. She is replaced by Megan Campbell. It looks like Campbell is sliding in at left wing back, with Taylor Hinds pushing forward as the left forward.
PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! A long throw from Megan Cambell flies into the box, and Gilly Flaherty gets a foot to the ball, and it is blocked by the outstretched arm of Millie Bright. Katie Stengel steps up and sends Musovic the wrong way to tie the game 1-1!
Chelsea make their first changes of the match in the 69th minute. Johanna Kaneyrd and Eve Perriset come on for Guro Reiten and Millie Bright.
Liverpool counter with a trio of their own changes. Missy Bo Kearns, Melissa Lawley, and Emma Koivisto come off for Rachel Furness, Yana Daniels, and Razza Roberts.
Liverpool are looking quite confident, and are moving the ball better and better. Taylor Hinds has a go from distance, but her shot goes wide of the post.
A big collision of the heads as Rachel Furness and Magdalena Eriksson challenge for a header. Play is immediately stopped and the medical staffs of both teams immediately come out to check on the players. Eriksson is back on her feet after a few moments, and Furness gets back up a minute later. Thankfully both players are able to continue.
Megan Campbell creates chaos in the Chelsea box with two quick long throws in succession with about 10 minutes left in regulation. The second ball pops out to Ceri Holland at the top of the box, but she can’t stay over the top of the ball, and her volley goes well over the bar.
The game is now very end to end. Liverpool are moving the ball much better, and both teams are launching counters as soon as the ball turns over. Game is on a knifes edge.
Chelsea make another change in the 85th minute, bringing on Bethany England for Lauren James. Must be nice to have that as a back up plan.
ANOTHER PENALTY TO LIVERPOOL! Katie Stengel shows great burst to push the ball past Buchanan and drive into the box. The Chelsea defender makes a last ditch tackle, but takes the American down from behind. Stengel takes the penalty she earned, and again sends Musovic the wrong way to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead!
There are seven minutes of extra time. Hold onto your butts, folks!
Chelsea send several long balls into the box, looking for the head of Sam Kerr. Rachael Laws is on hand each time to catch and hold.
KAtie Stengel battles well for a ball out wide and earns a foul. Matt Beard makes one last change, sending Carla Humphrey in for two goal hero Katie Stengel. The American gets a huge round of applause from the crowd as she comes off.
Chelsea launch a couple of last ditch attempts, with Bethany England almost getting on the end of a bouncing ball at the back post, but Niamh Fahey is there to do just enough to keep her from getting to the ball. The fans are all whistling, urging the referee to blow for full time, and THERE IT IS. LIVERPOOL HAVE BEATEN THREE-TIME REIGNING WSL CHAMPS IN THEIR FIRST MATCH BACK IN THE TOP FLIGHT!!!!!!
Wow. Just wow. Chelsea were certainly the better team in the first half, and had a deserved 1-0 lead at the half. Liverpool were much more composed in the second half, and showed they not only belonged in the top flight, but they could go toe to toe with one of the best teams in the world. Two penalties earned and converted gave the Reds all three points as they now look forward to taking on Everton in a Merseyside derby at Anfield next Sunday.