Match reportLFC Women edged out by Chelsea in FA Cup
Liverpool FC Women delivered a performance rich in heart, resilience and desire but were edged out 3-2 at Chelsea in a pulsating Vitality Women's FA Cup tie on Sunday afternoon.
After Sam Kerr struck twice to put the home side in the ascendancy, Ceri Holland’s sensational strike halved the deficit at Kingsmeadow.
Kerr completed her hat-trick to make it 3-1 but substitute Gemma Bonner bundled in five minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish.
Despite a spirited late Reds charge, though, cup holders Chelsea held out to secure their spot in the fifth round.
The Blues came into the game unbeaten in 17 matches since Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over the West London side on the opening day of the Barclays Women’s Super League campaign.
Faced with such in-form opponents, Liverpool impressively stood up to the challenge in the early stages. Chelsea enjoyed the majority of possession but struggled to create opportunities as Matt Beard’s well-drilled side defended with determination and authority.
The home side’s first genuine chance came from a corner kick on 21 minutes. Erin Cuthbert’s driven low delivery was deflected out to Kadeisha Buchanan, who shot well over the bar.
Liverpool threatened soon after when Missy Bo Kearns turned sharply in the box and saw her effort on goal well blocked.
Chelsea continued to press, though, and they made the breakthrough just after the half-hour mark. Niamh Charles was the creator, swinging in a cross from the right, which Kerr expertly volleyed into the top corner.
Buoyed by the opener, Chelsea continued to attack but the Liverpool backline – marshalled impressively by skipper Niamh Fahey – held firm to ensure there was just a solitary goal between the sides at the halfway stage.
Liverpool started the second half brightly and Katie Stengel was fractions away from meeting a Melissa Lawley cross.
Chelsea doubled their advantage seven minutes after the break, however, when Kerr finished from close range after a clever Fran Kirby pass.
Liverpool refused to let their heads drop and Kearns shot over from range after an excellent run from Stengel and a smart Lawley lay-off.
The Reds made two changes just before the hour, with Bonner and Taylor Hinds replacing Yana Daniels and Megan Campbell. Boss Beard also adjusted the Reds’ system, moving to a 4-4-2, with Lawley and Stengel operating as central strikers.
The switch immediately boosted his team’s attacking impetus and, after a spell of pressure, Liverpool hit back in stunning fashion on 62 minutes.
Kearns skilfully escaped her marker in the area before teeing up Holland on the edge of the box. The midfielder then displayed immaculate technique to rifle an unstoppable first-time strike beyond Chelsea ‘keeper Zecira Musovic.
The shot stopper was called into action soon after as the Reds hunted a leveller, vitally punching the ball clear when Stengel looked poised to head home from six yards.
The match opened up as Liverpool committed more bodies forward and Laws made a fine save from Kerr following a swift Chelsea counter-attack.
The Australia striker looked to have taken the tie away from Liverpool on 79 minutes, though, when she headed in from another Charles cross.
But back came Liverpool once more, with Bonner scrambling home from a corner to give the Reds hope.
The excellent Lawley came closest to scoring what would have been a dramatic late leveller, when her rising drive forced a terrific save from Musovic in stoppage time.
A cup exit for Liverpool, then, but a performance which will have given boss Beard and the travelling Reds much to be proud of.
LFC Women: Laws, Koivisto (Robe, 77), Fahey, Matthews, Campbell (Hinds 58’), Kearns (Lundgaard, 69), Nagano, Holland, Daniels (Bonner, 58), Stengel, Lawley.
Unused subs: Kirby, Cumings, Silcock, Humphrey, Furness.