A week after Liverpool had a WSL match at Chelsea called off in the 6th minute due to a frozen pitch, the Reds returned to the proverbial scene of the crime (more on that later) for an FA Cup fourth round match. Somehow, both the Liverpool Women’s and Men’s teams kicked off within half an hour of each other, both in FA Cup action, and the Women’s match was only available via the Chelsea 5th Stand app.
There was good news and bad news when the lineups were announced. On the positive side, Katie Stengel was deemed fit enough to start after having to have X-Rays on her jaw from a hard challenge against West Ham midweek. Sadly, news was not so good for Shanice van de Sanden. Matt Beard said the Dutchwoman injured her knee warming up on the frozen Chelsea pitch last weekend, and was not available for selection. Such a shame that she sustained an injury that very much could have been avoided.
Matt Beard sent his squad out in a 4-3-3 formation for the third match in a row, signaling a change in how Liverpool would approach matches from how the set up earlier in the season. January signing Fuka Nagano got her second start in a row in midfield alongside Ceri Holland and Missy Bo Kearns. With no Shanice van de Sanden, Yana Daniels was again deployed as one of the wide forwards.
The Reds to take on Chelsea today in the #WomensFACup fourth round pic.twitter.com/5ePufjpmiH— Liverpool FC Women (@LiverpoolFCW) January 29, 2023
Unsurprisingly, Chelsea put Liverpool under pressure early and often to start the match. The Blues had been in strong form coming into the match, going unbeaten in 17 straight matches since Liverpool shocked them on opening day. Liverpool defended valiantly, but could not keep Chelsea out. Former Liverpool player Niamh Charles sent in a cross from the right, and the ball was volleyed home by goalscorer extraordinaire Sam Kerr in the 30th minute.
Chelsea continued to pile on the pressure in search of a second goal before the half. Niamh Fahey led Liverpool’s defense and managed to keep the home side out of the goal before the halftime whistle blew.
As we have seen time and time again, slow starters Liverpool came out much more brightly in the second half. Melissa Lawley almost set up Katie Stengel with a cross, but the ball eluded the American striker by a mere inch or two in front of the goal.
While Liverpool began to press forward in search of a goal, they left space in behind on the counter. Chelsea took advantage of that space on the counter, leading to Sam Kerr’s second goal of the match after being set up from close range by Fran Kirby in the 52nd minute.
Liverpool did not back down despite being down by two goals. Katie Stengel led the charge for the Reds, carrying the ball into the attacking zone before finding Melissa Lawley. Lawley laid the ball off for Missy Bo Kearns, but the Scouser put the ball over the bar from close range.
Matt Beard made two subs in the 58th minute, bringing on Taylor Hinds and Gemma Bonner in place of Meghan Campbell and Yana Daniels. Liverpool also changed formation to a 3-5-2 with the change of personnel, playing Stengel and Lawley together up top.
Liverpool began to take control of the match after the changes, putting together a good spell of possession. It culminated with Liverpool cutting Chelsea’s lead in half in the 62nd minute. Missy Bo Kearns laid a ball off for Ceri Holland at the edge of the box and the Welshwoman buried the ball into the net with a rocket of a shot.
Back within a goal, Liverpool hunted for an equalizer, but Chelsea still tested the Reds on the counter. Rachael Laws had to make a smart save on Sam Kerr to deny her a hat trick, but Kerr would not be denied. In the 79th minute, Kerr again finished off a cross from Niamh Charles, this time with a header to give Chelsea a 3-1 lead.
To their credit, Liverpool did not put their heads down. Gemma Bonner gave the Reds hope, knocking the ball in from close range after a scramble off of a corner kick to again bring Liverpool within a goal.
Melissa Lawley came close to tying the game up in extra time, but Zecira Musovic made a very good save to deny her. That was the last chance for Liverpool as they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea despite a good second half showing.
Liverpool will head home and prepare for a couple of massive WSL matches. Matt Beard’s 9th place side will host 10th place Reading next Sunday. The Reds will stay on Merseyside to take on last place Leicester City the following weekend.