Liverpool Ladies grabbed a late equaliser away at Arsenal Ladies today in their penultimate Women’s Super League game.
Natasha Dowie led the line for Liverpool, with Kate Longhurst just behind her and a midfield 3 of Amanda DaCosta, Katrin Omarsdottir and Fara Williams. Lucy Bronze and Martha Harris were at wing-back, Gemma Bonner, Becky Easton and Corina Schroder just in front of Libby Stout in goal.
Arsenal won possession from the opening whistle, immediately catching Liverpool on the back foot with Jordan Nobbs heading the gunners in front within a minute – Shinobu Ohno with the cross from the right.
For the opening 15 minutes, Liverpool continued to be completely overrun by Arsenal. When in possession the reds tried to retain the ball by passing it around patiently, attempting to gain some control over the game. However each time it seemed Arsenal would win the ball back and go on a rampage.
Liverpool conceded a 2nd 10 minutes in, again from the impeccable Jordan Nobbs and again the goal came from an attack forged down the right. Despite having a 2-goal cushion, Arsenal continued to flaunt their attacking prowess. Rachel Yankey from the left, Ohno from the right, Danielle Carter causing all sorts of problems up front and Jordan Nobbs pulling the strings in the centre of midfield.
If it wasn’t for the brilliant Becky Easton, the deficit could have been far more in the first half alone. First getting across the entire defence to push Carter out wide and prevent her getting a strike in, then strongly heading away a corner before blocking a long distance strike from Leah Williamson.
Matt Beard then made a much-needed first half substitution, Harris making way for former gunner Gemma Davison. Liverpool went 4 at the back, with Fara Williams just stepping slightly further back and making a noticeable difference immediately.
It took a little while longer for the reds to fully steady the ship, full credit must go to Libby Stout here for keeping Liverpool in the game. Under constant siege, Jordan Nobbs tried her luck from 40-yards just minutes before a Carter strike destined for the top corner was expertly punched away.
Stout went down with an injury that required treatment around the 30-minute mark, giving Williams an opportunity to pull the rest of the side together for an impromptu team talk. Whatever the influential midfielder said seemed to take effect and Liverpool won their first corner shortly afterwards after good work from Davison and Kate Longhurst.
Williams took the resulting corner, finding Gemma Bonner at the edge of the box – her header towards goal was cleared only as far as Lucy Bronze out wide who’s cross skimmed the head of Natasha Dowie.
It was Williams who ensured Liverpool pulled a goal back before half-time, a second stunning strike in as many games with a beauty of a free kick beating Emma Byrne between the Arsenal posts.
From the start of the second half Liverpool applied pressure to the Arsenal defence. Kate Longhurst winning possession and getting an early strike in but this was saved by Byrne. Williams then almost added a second, winning the ball 30 yards out, powering forward and attempting to curl the ball into the top corner – narrowly wide.
For all the Liverpool pressure, it was however Arsenal who would be next to score – through Casey Stoney, who scored from a corner to make it 3-1 to the home side.
Liverpool made a double substitution, with Nicole Rolser making a welcome return and replacing Kate Longhurst, Katie Zelem also came on for Amanda DaCosta.
Zelem scored the winner against Notts County with her first touch last month and almost achieved the same feat here, Davison’s cross finding the midfielder in space however her shot was saved.
Nicole Rolser‘s importance to Liverpool has been clearly outlined by her absence this year and the German winger made an instant difference to Liverpool’s attack. Natasha Dowie was clearly revitalised and the 2 picked up where they left off last year, linking well and causing the defence all kinds of problems.
The two combined to pull the score back to 3-2, Dowie doing well on the left to get a low ball towards Rolser who ran at the defence and scored on her first attempt – despite Alex Scott‘s best efforts to clear off the line.
Rolser then almost set Dowie up in an almost identical move, before again breaking through on goal herself – this time Byrne was well off her line to put her off and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
The game continued to be end-to-end, Liverpool looking for an equaliser and Arsenal trying to catch us on the break.
Katrin Omarsdottir looked to have scored from a Williams free kick, the referee waved play on and straight up the other end Becky Easton prevented a definite goal with a fantastic challenge.
Into 4 minutes of added time, it looked as though Liverpool would be heartbroken until Gemma Davison picked up possession midway through the Arsenal half and ran at the gunners defence – splitting it in 2 and calmly finish past Byrne to take the title chase down to the final day of the season.
XI : Stout, Bronze, Bonner (C), Easton, Schroder, Harris (Davison), Williams, Katrin, DaCosta (Zelem), Longhurst (Rolser), Dowie
POTM : Nicole Rolser
Liverpool of course still need other results to go their way, Chelsea must lose to City, Birmingham can draw but can’t win and Liverpool need to win by at least 2 goals. If Liverpool are to retain this title, they certainly are not doing it the easy way, the final league game is in 1 weeks time – Sunday 12th October, 2pm kick off vs Bristol Academy at Select Stadium, Widnes.
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