THERE are plenty of positives for Liverpool Ladies despite a 2-1 defeat at the hands of reigning league champions Chelsea Ladies at the Select Stadium, Widnes.
Ji So-Yun’s goal was the only difference between the sides at half-time before Gilly Flaherty extended the visitors lead from a set piece.
Midfielder Caroline Weir scored her second goal in as many games in the 83rd minute to pull a goal back, however, despite finishing the game strongly, Liverpool couldn’t find an equaliser.
Manager Scott Rogers made a trio of changes to the team that drew with Sunderland at the weekend: Rosie White, Katie Zelem and Mayumi Pacheco in for Emma Lundh, Laura Coombs and Martha Harris.
The Reds lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Siobhan Chamberlain in goal behind a back four of Natasha Harding, Gemma Bonner, Mandy van den Berg and Pacheco; Sophie Ingle, Kate Longhurst and Zelem in the middle and White, Weir and Shanice van de Sanden up front.
Chelsea were first to register a shot on target as England forward Eni Aluko tested Chamberlain in the opening minutes, the Reds number one comfortably collecting.
A smart move from Liverpool then almost had Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl beat, Zelem smart to pick out the run of Weir but her left-footed effort went inches wide.
The action was end-to-end for the majority of the 90 minutes. Bonner and Harding made challenges to deny Aluko at one end of the pitch in the early stages before a low cross from Weir was deflected out for successive corners.
These were both cleared and on the second Aluko attempted to counter only to be stopped in her tracks by a crunching Harding tackle.
Chelsea then capitalised on a mix-up at the back from Liverpool, the ball also appearing to take an unlucky deflection on a clearance to land at the feet of Ji So-Yun for her to hit a low drive into the back of the net.
Lindahl then made a set of good saves to rebuff Liverpool’s advances; holding onto Zelem’s strike from 25 yards, punching clear a Weir chance and, from the resulting corner, impressively keeping out Ingle’s powerful volley after it first ricocheted off the post.
As half-time loomed Chelsea were forced into a substitution as captain Katie Chapman was replaced by Bethany England following a clash of heads with Zelem.
Emerging for the second-half, Chelsea peppered the Liverpool goal with opportunities to extend their lead.
First Chamberlain produced an excellent save from Jade Bailey’s shot, then England twice sent the ball over the crossbar and Fran Kirby dragged a chance wide.
Chelsea were also left frustrated when Pacheco made a vital interception after Kirby had squared the ball towards Aluko.
The young left-back also brilliantly stopped Davison six yards out, after the former Liverpool winger had executed a mazy run past several red shirts, and got herself between Blundell and the ball in the box for van den Berg to clear.
Chelsea extended their lead when Flaherty converted Ana Borges’ set piece, this coming moments after van de Sanden had struck the post at the opposite end of the pitch.
Ashley Hodson came on for van de Sanden while Niamh Charles replaced Longhurst, the two working well on the flanks.
As Chelsea began to fade, Liverpool saw the game out strongly; Bonner finding Harding out wide with a free kick, her delivery into the box almost picking out White who collided with Lindahl.
Lindahl was unable to continue with Becky Spencer replacing her.
Liverpool pulled a goal back when Weir latched onto a brilliant through ball from Charles, tucking the ball past Spencer to make it 1-2.
Eight minutes of injury time was added at the end of the second-half and Harding picked out Charles who forced Spencer into a finger-tip save and the aforementioned van den Berg cross also troubling the keeper but unable to find a way across the line.
Overall Liverpool impressed on the night with a hard-working performance defined by the two full-backs — left winger Harding played left back on Saturday and right back during this tie. The goals will be tough to take and hard to watch back but there is plenty of promise within this team.
Next up, Liverpool Ladies travel to Notts County on Monday.
Liverpool Ladies: Chamberlain, Harding, Bonner, van den Berg, Pacheco, Ingle, Longhurst (Charles), Zelem, van de Sanden (Hodson), White, Weir.
Player of the match: Mayumi Pacheco