Chelsea’s title defence got off to the worst possible start with defeat by newly-promoted Liverpool in their first Women’s Super League game of the season.
Liverpool striker Katie Stengel scored two penalties in the second half to send a record crowd at Prenton Park into a frenzy.
Fran Kirby had given Chelsea the lead within three minutes of kick-off from the penalty spot before the hosts mounted a stunning comeback.
Chelsea are bidding to win a fourth successive WSL title, while two-time champions Liverpool are back in the top-flight after a two-year absence.
There were 3,006 in attendance at Prenton Park – the most for a Liverpool women’s game.
Chelsea seemed to be in good fortune when Liverpool debutant Gilly Flaherty clipped Guro Reiten in the box to give away a penalty in less than 60 seconds.
Kirby kept her cool and Chelsea began to dominate possession, though Liverpool carried a threat in attack.
Leanne Kiernan hit the post but was offside in the first half, while new signing Emma Koivisto poked a rebound over the bar from a few yards out.
But Chelsea appeared in control as Sam Kerr won countless headers in the final third and the movement of the Blues’ midfield caused problems.
Kerr had a goal disallowed for offside when she thumped in a half volley from the edge of the box before Scotland international Erin Cuthbert struck an effort inches wide.
Emma Hayes’ side started where they left off after the break, but Millie Bright was penalised harshly for a handball in the box before Chelsea’s new signing Kadeisha Buchanan gave away a foul for a second Liverpool penalty in 20 minutes.
It was the perfect way for Liverpool to mark their return to the WSL under manager Matt Beard, who guided them to back-to-back titles the last time he was in charge in this league.
Stengel delivers as Chelsea stutter
Chelsea’s defeat came on a day when Aston Villa beat Manchester City 4-3 at Villa Park, making for an explosive start to the WSL season.
The visitors were full of creativity and movement but lacked a ruthless edge in the final third – harmed by the late withdrawal of forward Pernille Harder who sustained a slight niggle in the warm-up.
Liverpool took time to settle into the game as the intensity of Chelsea’s switch of play and fluidity in midfield caused problems.
But as the game wore on and Beard had gathered his players in at half-time, Liverpool started to find confidence and played more on the front foot in the second half.
Stengel, who scored on her home debut for Liverpool last season, stepped up impressively to put away both penalties in front of the Kop to mark a superb WSL debut.
It was a marker of Liverpool’s intent this season as they hope to consolidate a place in the league.
- 2KoivistoSubstituted forRobertsat 72′minutes
- 7KearnsSubstituted forFurnessat 72′minutes
- 18HollandBooked at 18mins
- 11LawleySubstituted forDanielsat 72′minutes
- 24StengelSubstituted forHumphreyat 90+5′minutes
- 9KiernanSubstituted forCampbellat 57′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 4BrightSubstituted forPérissetat 69′minutes
- 5IngleSubstituted forCankovicat 80′minutes
- 11ReitenSubstituted forRytting Kanerydat 70′minutes
- 10JamesSubstituted forEnglandat 85′minutes
- 19Rytting Kaneryd
- Emily Heaslip
Match ends, Liverpool Women 2, Chelsea Women 1.
Second Half ends, Liverpool Women 2, Chelsea Women 1.
Attempt missed. Sam Kerr (Chelsea Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Ève Périsset.
Attempt missed. Bethany England (Chelsea Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Magdalena Eriksson.
Substitution, Liverpool Women. Carla Humphrey replaces Katie Stengel.
Megan Campbell (Liverpool Women) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Jelena Cankovic (Chelsea Women).
Katie Stengel (Liverpool Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Taylor Hinds (Liverpool Women).
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Rhiannon Roberts.
Attempt blocked. Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (Chelsea Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ève Périsset.
Goal! Liverpool Women 2, Chelsea Women 1. Katie Stengel (Liverpool Women) converts the penalty with a right footed shot to the bottom right corner.
Penalty conceded by Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea Women) after a foul in the penalty area.
Penalty Liverpool Women. Katie Stengel draws a foul in the penalty area.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Bethany England replaces Lauren James.
Attempt saved. Sam Kerr (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Fran Kirby.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Taylor Hinds.
Attempt missed. Ceri Holland (Liverpool Women) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Jelena Cankovic replaces Sophie Ingle.