MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Notts County Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies picked up another crucial 3 points earlier today against Notts County Ladies. The win takes them to 2nd in the league, 2 points behind Chelsea.

 The reds lined up with Libby Stout in goal, in front of a defensive trio of Gemma Bonner, Becky Easton and Nina Frausing. Lucy Bronze and Corina Schroder deployed as wing-backs with Natasha Dowie, Kate Longhurst and Gemma Davison behind her and Katrin Omarsdottir and Fara Williams making up the midfield.

 Notts County are a frustrating team to play against and during the first 45 minutes they executed their game plan well, pressing as Liverpool attempted to pass the ball around.

 Kate Longhurst was first to break through the Notts lines, following a quick one-two with Natasha Dowie in midfield Longhurst raced to the edge of the 18-yard box only for the defender to catch her last minute before she could get a strike in.

 Jess Clarke is County’s top scorer, with 12 goals in all competitions this season. Clarke was again the main threat, her pace down the left wing blinding. Gemma Bonner did particularly well to keep the winger at bay, with a number of well-timed challenges and interceptions.

 As Liverpool struggled to control the tempo of the game, they were forced into an early substitution with Becky Easton coming off with what looked to be a hamstring injury. Easton was replaced by Amanda DaCosta and Fara Williams stepped back into the centre of defence alongside Bonner and Nina Frausing.

 During the break in play as both Easton and Libby Stout received treatment, Fara Williams pulled the standing players together for an impromptu pep talk. Liverpool were to face another couple of menacing Jess Clarke runs into the box first however before mounting a significant attack of their own.

 The ever-brilliant Lucy Bronze beat a couple of players to cut into the 18-yard box from the right, Bronze cut the ball across the face of goal to the incoming Corina Schroder however somehow the strike went over the bar. Schroder almost made amends for the miss minutes later, with a brilliant cross swung in towards Kate Longhurst. The ball only just grazing the head of Liverpool’s no.7.

 Out for the second-half, Liverpool had a renewed energy and immediately set off pressing Notts high up the pitch and in their own half. Lucy Bronze again with a good ball to Gemma Davison on the edge of the area but the cross went out for a goal kick.

 Next it was captain Gemma Bonner who kickstarted the Liverpool attack, Bonner ball forward finding Natasha Dowie on the half way line. Dowie flicked the ball on to Kate Longhurst who won a corner. The results set piece was headed away and cleared only as far as Davison who tried to send Longhurst through on goal, Notts keeper Carly Telford got there first.

 Liverpool crept closer and closer to opening the scoring, Fara Williams controlling play from her new position at centre back. Williams was a calm figure for Liverpool throughout and even hit the post with a free kick that had Telford beaten.

 With about 15 minutes to play Katie Zelem replaced Longhurst. Zelem proved to be the missing puzzle piece for the reds, excellently volleying home Gemma Davison‘s cross with her first touch to score the match winning goal.

 Following the goal Liverpool looked hungry for more, it looked as though Davison had won a penalty and Natasha Dowie was poised to take the spot kick before the referee bizarrely changed his mind. Notts had a player booked for contesting the penalty, a decision that would prove costly in the 90th minute as Sophie Walton picked up her second yellow card and received her marching orders.

 XI: Stout, Bronze, Bonner (C), Easton (DaCosta) Frausing, Schroder, Williams, Omarsdottir, Davison, Longhurst (Zelem), Dowie

 POTM: Fara Williams

 Next up for the reds they are away (at Select Stadium) against Everton Ladies on Thursday 4th September.

 Thanks for reading!


MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool Ladies vs Notts County

 Liverpool Ladies will take on Notts County Ladies tomorrow afternoon in the penultimate home league game of the FAWSL 2014 season.

 Last time the two sides met in May, both failed to create clear goal scoring opportunities with a 0-0 draw. As the season enters the final quarter both are now facing battles at either end of the league table, with Liverpool keen to keep the pressure on leaders Birmingham City and Notts looking to extend the gap between themselves and bottom placed Everton.

 Notts County haven’t won a league game since a 2-0 win over Everton back in April, since then they have picked up just 2 points out of a possible 15 which places them 5 points clear of the blues in 8th. Controversially The FA decided to award the 3 points from the postponed clash with Bristol Academy to the Vixens, after deciding Notts had failed to find an adequate alternate venue. Notts are appealing the decision.

 Despite the poor league form, Notts have reached the latter stages of the Continental Cup, winning all but one of their group games to set up a semi-final with Arsenal Ladies.

 Like Liverpool, Notts County have found themselves struck with an injury crisis this campaign. Winter signing Ellen White and defenders Sophie Bradley and Anna Green all ruled out for the entire season with the same injury as Liverpool’s Lucy Staniforth and Nicole Rolser. Winger Dunia Susi has also been ruled out for up to 8 weeks after picking up an MCL injury during the last game.

 Liverpool will be boosted by the return of U20 World Cup trio Martha Harris, Katie Zelem and Ellie Stewart, giving manager Matt Beard the most options he has had all season. Staniforth and Rolser are the only two players who will be missing for the reds.

 In their last game against Chelsea, Liverpool attacked the in-form London side from the opening whistle. Immediately putting their visitors on the back pedal and maintaining a high level of attack with Lucy Bronze and Corina Schroder pushing high up the pitch and Gemma Davison causing the defence all kinds of problems.

 Davison won a penalty, which the winger duly took and scored, before Bronze doubled the scoreline before half-time to secure an all-important 3 points for the reds in a crucial tie.

 This game comes just 3 days after England beat Wales 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier to ensure the Lionesses place in Canada next summer. Fara Williams featured for England, while Natasha Dowie was an unused substitute – meaning Liverpool’s top scorer will be fresh and looking for her 30th goal in a red shirt.

 Kick-off is at 3pm, Select Stadium, Widnes. Anfield season ticket holders are granted free entry to all Liverpool Ladies home games, alternatively adults are £5 and concessions £2.50 on the turnstiles. Tomorrow 2 kids go free with every paying adult.

 In other news, the development squad’s Yasmine Swarbrick has completed a move to Preston North End Women and could make her first team competitive debut against Bradford City tomorrow.

 On-loan Liverpool left-back Megan Alexander should also be in action for Oxford United as they face Doncaster Belles. Alexander has played in each of Oxford’s last 4 league matches.

 Thanks for reading!


MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 2 – 0 Chelsea Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies picked up the most important 3 points of the season so far earlier tonight with a 2-0 victory over Chelsea Ladies.

 Lining up with one change from their last outing against Manchester City, Becky Easton coming in for Amanda DaCosta to join Nina Frausing and Gemma Bonner in the centre of defence. Lucy Bronze and Corina Schroder given more freedom with this formation to push on up the wings. Natasha Dowie led the line for the reds upfront with Kate Longhurst, Gemma Davison, Katrin Omarsdottir and recent England record breaker Fara Williams in midfield. Libby Stout started in goal.

 From the opening whistle Liverpool were looking to put Chelsea on the back foot and press forward, Fara Williams spotting the run of Corina Schroder on the left and attempting to pick her out but the ball was intercepted and won back seconds later following a good challenge from Katrin Omarsdottir.

 Utilising the wing-backs in the new formation, Lucy Bronze played another fantastic game for the reds linking well with Gemma Davison throughout the 90 minutes.

 Gemma Davison played perhaps her best game for Liverpool since joining during the winter transfer window, breaking through the Chelsea defence and forcing a challenge from behind by blues defender Laura Bassett on the edge of the 6-yard box. Davison stepped up to take the resulting penalty, sending the keeper the wrong way to open the scoring.

 Minutes after the goal, Kate Longhurst picked up a nasty looking head injury. Longhurst was forced to leave the pitch to receive treatment and was substituted mid-way through the second-half by Claudia Walker. While Liverpool’s no.7 was on the sidelines, Libby Stout comfortably dealt with Eni Aluko‘s through ball.

 Liverpool had the greater of the chances throughout the game, going close to doubling their lead when Natasha Dowie did well win a corner. Williams swung the ball in, just missing the head of Lucy Bronze but Gemma Davison fought to win the ball back and prevent Chelsea from countering. Liverpool were then awarded a free kick 40 yards out which Williams again sent into the blues box, this time Katrin Omarsdottir managed to get on the end of it but the header was blocked by the defence.

 Lucy Bronze doubled Liverpool’s lead with her first goal of 2014, powerfully charging past a number of Chelsea players and playing a quick one-two with Gemma Davison to score a fantastic goal which crashed in off the crossbar.

 Chelsea found their chances limited by an impressive looking Liverpool defence, Libby Stout and Gemma Bonner in particular the stand outs with Bonner making a number of interceptions and clearances inside the box and Stout being her usual commanding self – calling for balls and coming out off of her line to clear over and over again. A late effort in the second-half from close range by Eni Aluko also saw Stout display quick reactions to save and keep a clean sheet.

 2-0 up Liverpool cruised comfortably to the final whistle, the reliable Stout on hand to deal with any minor threat the Chelsea attack could summon while Liverpool patiently passed the ball around – content to build up their chances slowly.

 Gemma Davison, while impressing during the first 45 stepped her performance up a gear in a domineering second-half display that saw her unlucky not to grab a couple more goals. Skipping past a number of Chelsea players on numerous occasions, sending crosses into the box and running rings around the defence.

 Amanda DaCosta was a second-half substitution and almost scored within minutes of entering the fray, her shot wide.

  Fellow second-half substitute Claudia Walker made her first appearance for Liverpool following captaining England U19s in last month’s European Championships. The forward immediately throwing herself into the action, chasing every ball and almost getting on the end of a couple of Davison crosses – the first header saved by the keeper and the second chance Walker was only just beat to the ball inside the 6-yard box.

 7 minutes were added due to Gilly Flaherty being down injured for an extended length of time. It initially looked as though Flaherty may not have been able to continue, but the Chelsea defender returned following several minutes on the sidelines.

 POTM: Gemma Davison

 XI: Stout, Bronze, Easton, Bonner (C), Frausing, Schroder, Williams (DaCosta), Katrin, Davison, Longhurst (Walker), Dowie

 Unused subs: Gibbons, Dale, Hodson

 The 3 points won tonight were massive for Liverpool’s season, pulling the reds to within 2 point of second placed Chelsea with 5 games remaining to play.

 Next up for the reds is another home game, Liverpool will welcome Notts County Ladies to Select Stadium, Widnes for the first time on Saturday 23rd August in a 6:30pm KO.

 Thanks for reading!


MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool Ladies v Chelsea Ladies

 Tomorrow Liverpool Ladies return to action following the international break with a visit from Chelsea Ladies.

 During the break Liverpool midfielder Fara Williams picked up her 130th international cap for England, making her the most capped England player of all-time. The incredible achievement was marked with an impressive 4-0 victory for England over Sweden, Lucy Bronze also started for the Lionesses while Natasha Dowie and Gemma Bonner were unused substitutes.

 Liverpool will be without Martha Harris, Ellie Stewart and Katie Zelem again for this tie, the trio are currently representing England at the U20 World Cup in Canada. England began their campaign on Wednesday night, drawing 1-1 with South Korea in the opening group games. Harris grabbed the equaliser in the second half.

 The reds enjoyed a successful month in July, with 4 straight wins including brilliant wins over Durham WFC and Bristol Academy and hard-earned victories against Everton Ladies and Doncaster Belles. Last time out Liverpool were overpowered by a strong Manchester City side and will be looking to bounce back from that defeat with a win.

 Libby Stout put in another outstanding shift at the Etihad, pulling off save after save to keep the score to just 1-0. City’s only goal of the game came after taking a horrid deflection to beat the Liverpool No.1.

 During the earlier wins in July, Liverpool’s attack had really begun to gel following the injury crisis the reds faced before the mid-season break. A rampant second half in Durham saw Gemma Davison and Katie Zelem grab a brace each, Natasha Dowie score her second of the game and even captain Gemma Bonner popped up with a goal.

 A couple of weeks later Kate Longhurst scored her first goal of the season with a derby winning strike as Stout again was impressive to keep Everton striker Nikita Parris out.

 Chelsea Ladies currently sit 5 points ahead of Liverpool in 2nd place, making this a must-win game for the reds as they cannot afford to let that gap widen further.

 Chelsea come into this game on the back of 4 straight wins against London Bees, Arsenal Ladies, Bristol Academy and Manchester City. They have conceded in each of their last 3 victories against the WSL1 sides and scored a last minute winner against Man City, after City captain Steph Houghton had been forced off through injury.

 Winter signing Ji So-Yun is the blues top scorer on 7 goals in 12 appearances while forward Eni Aluko is on 6. Another transfer window arrival Rachel Williams scored her first goal for Chelsea as she netted a hat-trick in the win over London Bees.

 The last two games between these two sides have been closely fought affairs, last August Liverpool narrowly overcame Chelsea through the dominating Nicole Rolser while the teams played out a 0-0 back in April. Both clubs will be going all out for the 3 points here, Chelsea looking to extend the gap between the top 2 and the rest of the league, while Liverpool need the 3 points to pull themselves back up the table.

 The game kicks off at 6:30pm, Select Stadium, Widnes. Tickets are priced £5 adults, £2.50 concessions.

 Apologies that this preview is up later than usual, I have been away watching Washington Spirit play in the NWSL – you can read about my trip here!

 Thanks for reading


Washington Spirit vs Chicago Red Stars

 In November 2012 the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) was launched, following the collapse of the Women’s Professional Soccer league just months earlier.

 Washington Spirit were one of 8 teams chosen to compete in the inaugural season, which kicked off in April 2013. In order to follow the league more closely I decided to choose a team to support and went for Washington Spirit. I can’t really explain that decision, having never been to Washington, players were yet to be announced and at this point no club badge had even been unveiled.

 Washington endured a tough first year in the NWSL, almost paralleling Liverpool Ladies first two years in the FAWSL, finishing bottom of the league and at the start of July 2013 they replaced their manager with Mark Parsons – who has also worked with Chelsea Ladies.

 The team drew their first game under the new manager before slipping to a losing streak of 7 games, with a couple of close results. Despite this August seen a turnaround in fortunes, after a month working with the first-team Washington recorded their first back-to-back wins of the season and finished with a 1-1 draw to Sky Blue FC.

 During the post-season, a number of high quality players arrived to further improve the squad; Crystal Dunn, Lisa Devanna, Christine Nairn and Jodie Taylor to name just a few.

 The 2014 Washington Spirit are flying high in the league and pushing for a play-off place, enjoying great support from the vocal ‘Spirit Squadron‘. Last season Washington averaged a gate of over 3,000 per game.

 The NWSL streams all it’s games on YouTube, which is both a blessing and a curse in that you get to watch every game in it’s entirety yet have to stay up until the early hours of the morning due to the time difference. It was during one of the games towards the end of the season last year, one that finished at 2am and having to be up for work at 6 that I decided in 2014 I would make the trip to catch a match in-person.

 As soon as I had enough money saved up and Liverpool’s fixture list was announced, I booked flights for myself and my sister to New York and then a train onwards to Washington, DC. The game that didn’t clash with any Liverpool fixtures was Chicago Red Stars on Saturday 2nd August.

 Again like Liverpool Ladies, Spirit play outside of Washington in a place called Germantown. There they play at a stadium named ‘Maryland Soccerplex‘, alongside either side of the pitch are bleacher style stands while behind one of the goals is a stretch of grass where supporters can sit.

 Our seats were on the halfway line, right behind the team benches and just in front of the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stand! At the Soccerplex there are numerous food stands and a tent/ shop where you can purchase pre-printed shirts, pendants, keyrings and foam fingers all emblazoned with the club badge.

 Although the stadium is smaller than Liverpool’s, it was the perfect size for the crowd and generated an easy-going, family atmosphere and the majority of supporters in attendance wore apparel with club logos and colours.

 Washington were without Jodie Taylor on the day, the striker had received a long overdue call-up to the England squad for the friendly against Sweden. Even without Taylor amongst their ranks, Spirit boast an impressive starting line-up with Lisa De Vanna up front, Kerstin Garefrekes just behind her, Lori Lindsay and Diana Matheson in midfield and a strong centre-back pairing of Ali Krieger and Niki Cross in front of goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.

 From the opening whistle the Spirit looked confident and pushed forward in numbers, Diana Matheson in particular impressing – at times reminding me of Liverpool’s brilliant Nicole Rolser, with pace, skill and great vision in creating opportunities for her team mates.

 Even when going a goal behind early, after Canadian international Melissa Tancredi set up Lori Chalupny to make it 1-0 to Chicago in under 5 minutes, Washington never let their heads drop and had a golden chance to equalise after Matheson almost set up Garefrekes midway through the first half. Battling her way through the Red Stars defence and sending an inch-perfect cross into the box but the header went just over the crossbar.

 The pace of the game in the second half seemed to shift up a notch, both teams wanting and needing the 3 points to remain in the hunt for a play-off spot. Minutes after the restart Christine Nairn equalised for Washington, the pass coming from Diana Matheson.

 Matheson was then an integral part of the winning goal – minutes after a superb save from the excellent Ashlyn Harris who was playing on despite taking a heavy knock during a set piece – the Canadian midfielder brilliantly kept the ball in play in the frantic final minutes of the game, passing to Lisa De Vanna who found the incoming Yael Averbuch outside the 18-yard box and who’s strike sailed past the Chicago keeper into the top corner.

 The result moved Washington Spirit 6 points clear of Chicago Red Stars and puts them in 3rd place, equal on points to Portland Thorns who are on the same number of games and 7 points behind FC Kansas City. Spirit have a game in hand over Kansas and will face league leaders Seattle Reign this Saturday in another crucial clash. The top 4 teams in the NWSL qualify for the play offs.

 If anyone wants to watch a fantastic advert for the women’s game, you can watch the match in full here:

  I had a truly fantastic time in Washington watching the game and meeting many of the people who work for the club. To finish this blog off I’d just like to add a couple of thank you’s! Firstly thank you to Matt Beard and Mark Parsons for the brilliant tickets, post-match Mark introduced me and my sister to a few of the players and it was incredible to meet Christine Nairn, Diana Matheson, Ali Krieger and Kerstin Garefrekes. Thanks to assistant manager KJ Spisak for giving us a lift back to our hotel and finally thanks to club owner Bill Lynch and a lady who’s name I did not catch for the signed footballs. Myself and my sister really appreciated the welcome we received at the club and I am definitely hoping to make it back for a game next season!

Offical Washington Spirit website.

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