Katie Stengel scored two penalties on her Women’s Super League debut as defending champions Chelsea were stunned by newly promoted Liverpool.
Chelsea took the lead when Fran Kirby converted from the penalty spot after Gilly Flaherty collided with Guro Reiten. Sam Kerr saw an effort go offside as Liverpool took their second-half chances to end the Blues’ 13-game unbeaten run as they celebrated their return to the top flight in front of a record 3,006 fans at Prenton Park.
Stengel joked that she was just trying to avoid embarrassing herself in her Women’s Super League debut. “I said to myself don’t miss, please don’t miss, all these people here are going to make fun of me if I miss,” the American told Sky Sports. “I said I have to change it and I got lucky, I guess.”
The forward said the result was down to her team’s determination and a pep talk at halftime from head coach Matt Beard. “He reiterated that we have to believe in ourselves,” he added. “[He said:]”We can win this game and there’s only one other team, 11 more players, and we’ve prepared all pre-season, so why not believe in ourselves?”
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes was frustrated but insisted she was not worried about her side. “It’s not like in the open game they had multiple shots, they just maximized the situations, and for us going forward, I don’t think we could hit a barn door today,” he said. “I say it all the time, why worry about losing a football match. I’m not excited about it. I think we have to reflect, look back and next week is a new week.”
Former Chelsea defender Flaherty got his new side off to an unlucky start, missing his clearance and coming into contact with Reiten to concede a penalty in the first minute. Kirby stepped up to the spot and sent Rachael Laws the wrong way inside three minutes, her 29th goal in her last 31 starts for the club.
Emma Koivisto had a chance to equalize soon after when Chelsea goalkeeper Zecira Musovic couldn’t hold on to an effort from Ceri Holland and the Finnish defender pounced on the rebound but sent her effort over the bar.
The defending champions dominated the opening exchanges with Lauren James, who earned her first England cap this month, looking particularly bright on the right wing.
They tried to double their lead on 20 minutes when Kirby sent a long ball over the top to Kerr, who fired easily past Laws from 18 yards, but his volleyed effort was immediately ruled out.
Beard’s side suffered a blow when Leanne Kiernan was sent off, supported by two staff members, after she was brought down by Chelsea debutant Kadeisha Buchanan. But Liverpool got the breakthrough they were looking for when Flaherty’s throw from a service caught Millie Bright’s arm and was called for handball, and Stengel calmly scored his first WSL goal.
Five minutes from time, Stengel broke down the right and into the box, pursued by Buchanan who brought her down with a sliding tackle to set up Stengel for his second game-winning penalty.
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