A Fran Kirby hat-trick helped Chelsea romp their way to a thumping 5-1 win over fellow WSL 1 team, Liverpool in the first knock-out round of the Conti Cup.
Chelsea set the pace
A team in flying form, Chelsea more than hit the ground running, looking dangerous from the get-go all the hosts needed was four minutes to find the opening goal.
A nice ball kept alive saw Fran Kirby slip into the box alongside Gemma Bonner, the Liverpool captain unable to nibble the ball away before Kirby slipped the ball past Siobhan Chamberlain. The goal immediately followed by a Liverpool change, as Niamh Charles made way for Tash Harding at the restart.
A goal up and in no mood to slow down the Blues relentlessly moved forward, bodies flooding the attacking third as Liverpool well pulled every which way across the pitch, the Reds unable to deal with the influx. A hopeful shot from range from Laura Coombs slipped just wide before Chelsea attacked once more.
A cross-cum-shot from Crystal Dunn had Chamberlain nervously looking over her shoulder as the ball crested past her goal before the England international made a fine reaction save to deny Drew Spence. Having won their second corner of the game, the Reds saw a good chance, Sophie Ingle’s stretched shot pounced upon by Carly Telford.
The pressure from Chelsea was relentless, a smart run from Ramona Bachmann saw the Swiss attacker zip forward before unselfishly pulling the ball back for Spence, her shot whisked just wide with the goal at her mercy.
Smart to avoid the offside trap, Bachmann dashed behind the defence to receive a long ball, one-on-one with Chamberlain, the attacker remained assured, letting the ‘keeper commit before rounding her and slotting the ball into the empty net.
There was barely time for either to catch their breath before Chelsea made it three, Kirby getting the better of Chamberlain for the second time, the Liverpool defence too high again.
With the game firmly in their control, Chelsea continued to stroke the ball around the pitch, coming at their opposition in waves, Kirby’s first chance for a hat-trick sent into the side-netting before she was expertly denied by Chamberlain.
In another rare foray forward, Liverpool found themselves with another chance at a dead ball, Caroline Weir’s first time strike fired against the woodwork before Casey Stoney’s follow-up volley smacked into Millie Bright’s back.
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Liverpool show signs of life
A loose foul on Ingle five minutes into the second half saw the Reds able to reduce the deficit the initial free kick not fully cleared. The recycled ball made its way back to Harding, the Welshwoman’s header parried by Telford, the ball refusing to die as Stoney fired it at Bright’s feet. Finally, Liverpool had their goal when Coombs’ corner was firmly nodded the ball into the hungry net, the visitors still with it all to do.
Showing a little more fight, Liverpool started to press the ball, asking more and more questions of the home defence, though still predominantly behind the ball. Chamberlain showing better reflexes to keep the hosts out as they continued to create. The pressure finally too much for the Reds, Bachmann’s tenacity earning a save before Kirby turned the rebound home for her hat-trick.
Still looking like a different team from the one out for the first half, Liverpool looked for an immediate reaction, Telford’s punch mistimed and Hannah Blundell alert to clear the ball off of the line.
Back three goals to the good, Chelsea relaxed once again, easing the ball around midfield and driving forward, fresh legs off of the bench only serving to stretch the visiting defence more and more. Chelsea showing the strength of their bench as Scottish teenager, Erin Cuthbert fired in a sublime strike from the left side of the pitch to Chamberlain’s top right corner just seven minutes after coming on.
After Cuthbert’s net-ripper, the match fell back into the same pattern from the first half, the Blues seeing most of the ball and marching forward time and again, Liverpool thoroughly downed in the December rain. A late chance for Liverpool went begging, Weir’s effort at the death cannoned against the woodwork, slipping across the face of the goal before drifting out, the Scot denied a Christmas consolation.
All-but confirmed for the first minutes, Chelsea eased their way past a hapless Liverpool team, the Conti Cup the only domestic silverware the Blues have yet to win, the London-team taking a big step towards it in their last match of 2017.