MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 4 – 1 Aston Villa

 Liverpool Ladies kicked off 2015 with a 4-1 friendly win over Aston Villa. Over the course of the 90 minutes Matt Beard fielded 20 players, including 7 debutants.

 Danielle Gibbons started in goal in place of the injured Libby Stout, Satara Murray partnered Corina Schroder in the centre of defence with Ingrid Ryland at right back and Martha Harris on the left.

 Fara Williams captained the side on her birthday with Katrin Omarsdottir alongside her in midfield. Natasha Dowie played as the lone striker with the attacking three of trialist, Nicole Rolser and Kate Longhurst behind her.

 From the opening whistle Nicole Rolser and Ingrid Ryland were combining well on the right wing, with Ryland overlapping Rolser and looking to get crosses into the box. The same was happening on the opposite flank with Martha Harris particularly impressing attacking down the left wing and working with Kate Longhurst.

 Liverpool’s trialist was the highlight of the first half, creating chances for herself and her team mates playing just behind Natasha Dowie in the no.10 position. The trialist earned the corner from which Liverpool took the lead; Fara Williams swinging the ball in, falling to Dowie in the 6-yard box, the striker’s first shot was blocked but she tapped home the rebound to put the WSL champions in the lead.

 Aston Villa couldn’t find a way past Liverpool in the first half, Satara Murray first to every ball – strong and resilient in defence, always looking up to press forwards and carry the ball out.

 Gibbons found herself tested twice between the posts in the opening 45 minutes, one dangerous looking cross was well caught by the keeper and minutes later she recovered well to collect and hold on to the ball as the Villa attacker went through on goal.

 The reds went in at half-time 2-0 up, the trialist getting herself on the score sheet with a fantastic solo effort and could have had 1 or 2 more goals to her name had she not unselfishly crossed to her team mates. For her goal the trialist won the ball in midfield, chased down the left wing, cut inside the box past a couple of defenders and slotted the ball past the keeper.

 Liverpool made one substitution at half-time, Hannah Dale making her first appearance since her return from injury in replace of the trialist.

 Villa started the second half well, winning an early free kick that was headed away by Satara Murray.

 The visitors did pull a goal back through Natasha Baptiste, who capitalised on a mix up in the reds defence to put the ball past Gibbons.

 Kate Longhurst had a brilliant game, Longhurst is consistently one of the hardest working players on the pitch and ran box-to-box today creating chances at one end before getting back to help out in defence at the other. Longhurst almost found herself on the score sheet when an audacious shot/ cross skimmed the crossbar, it looked as though the keeper had got a hand to it but the referee gave a free kick.

 Liverpool soon re-extended their lead to 2 goals, Natasha Dowie grabbing her second of the afternoon and the pick of the goals. A great ball forward over the top of the defence was matched by a well-timed run from Dowie who clinically chipped the ball around the oncoming keeper to make it 3-1 to Liverpool.

 Dowie enjoyed a fantastic afternoon, holding the ball well in and around the 18-yard box and being unlucky not to have an assist to her name after chesting down Katrin Omarsdottir’s ball forward into the path of Longhurst – her first time strike was deflected wide.

 Liverpool made a number of second half substitutions, development squad top scorer Ashley Hodson came on for Nicole Rolser and immediately made an impact working well with Dowie initially on the right wing but then moving to a more central position.

 Hodson’s development squad teammates Emilie Revitt and Maz Pacheco were introduced shortly afterwards, both on the left side of the Liverpool defence.

 Revitt slotting in at centre-back with ease, not looking out of place in the first team and Pacheco continuing her trademark forward runs from left back – almost setting Hodson up after beating the Villa defender at the edge of the box and cutting the ball across the box.

 Revitt almost found herself trapped in the corner with two Villa players behind her, but managed to turn and beat them – confidently bringing the ball out from defence and passing it forward.

 Claudia Walker then came on for Kate Longhurst, Walker playing her second game of the weekend after getting minutes during England U19s friendly against Norway at St Georges Park yesterday.

 The 4th and final Liverpool goal came from yet another Fara Williams corner, a perfect delivery from the midfielder was met by Satara Murray who marked her reds debut with a goal – a thumping header at the far post.

 Into the last ten minutes of the game and club captain Gemma Bonner came on for goal scorer Murray, Bonner was joined by 3 more development squad debutants with Vicky Rumsey, Bethany Donoghue and Rachel Darbyshire all given minutes with the first team by Matt Beard.

 XI: Gibbons (Darbyshire), Ryland, Murray (Bonner), Schroder (Revitt), Harris (Pacheco), Williams (Rumsey), Omarsdottir, Rolser (Hodson), Trialist (Dale), Longhurst (Walker), Dowie (Donoghue)

 POTM: Satara Murray

 Liverpool’s next first team friendly is away at Derby County on Wednesday 4th February, the development squad are in action at home next Sunday – they face Everton at 2pm.


MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool Ladies v Aston Villa

 Tomorrow Liverpool Ladies return to action in their first (open to the public) pre-season friendly.

 For the second year running the reds welcome Aston Villa to Widnes during pre-season, in March last year it was in fact the visitors who took the lead – defender Jade Richards scoring from a free kick. This lead however was to be short-lived as Fara Williams seen her set piece bundled over the line shortly before half-time and Katrin Omarsdottir netted the winner in the second-half.

 Villa have had a quiet transfer window so far, completing one signing with Katie Wilkinson re-joining the club. Wilkinson spent the latter half of the last campaign on loan at the midlands side, scoring 6 goals in 13 appearances. They also boast England youth international Sherry McCue amongst their ranks but have lost forward Carly Davies, who has left the club after 13 years.

 For supporters of Liverpool Ladies this friendly offers the first opportunity to see the club’s four new signings play for the first time. Defenders Satara Murray and Ingrid Ryland, forward Line Smorsgard are all in line to make appearances. Liverpool could also reintroduce last winter’s signing Lucy Staniforth to the side after the midfielder missed the entire 2014 season through injury.

 At times last season Liverpool struggled in front of goal, scoring just 3 goals in their opening 5 competitive games. Smorsgard coming in will no doubt boost the reds attack, as will the return of the fit-again Nicole Rolser who was sorely missed last season.

 Rolser returned for the final four games of Liverpool Ladies season, scoring in the 3-3 draw away at Arsenal and instantly rekindling her on-pitch chemistry with the reds top scorer Natasha Dowie. Dowie scored 19 goals in 2013, her partnership with Rolser a key part of Liverpool’s attack and while the no.9 still hit double figures last year it was clear she missed the service Rolser consistently provides.

 In defence Liverpool have been boosted by the news both captain Gemma Bonner and left-back Corina Schroder have signed new deals. The most likely candidate to partner Bonner at the back is new arrival Satara Murray who comes to Liverpool from the University of North Carolina, the college which Whitney Engen and Lucy Bronze both played for.

 Other returning players include Becky Easton, Libby Stout, Katrin Omarsdottir, Fara Williams, Kate Longhurst, Danielle Gibbons, Martha Harris and Katie Zelem while Claudia Walker, Hannah Dale and Ashley Hodson will all likely feature once again for the first team in the upcoming friendlies and season – the trio all gained valuable playing time during the 2014 season with Liverpool relying on their talented youth players to fill the gaps left by the unprecedented injury crisis.

 Ashley Hodson in particular has noticeably improved, bagging 4 hat-tricks in 7 appearances for Liverpool’s development squad in their season so far. Hodson also captained the team during a 10-0 thrashing of Durham WFC, scoring 4 times.

 Other development players who could make the step up and feature in the first teams preparations for the upcoming campaign include development team captain Shannon Beckwith and attacking midfielder Mollie Green. Beckwith is a solid centre-back who communicates well with her defence, reads opposition attacks well and is comfortable with bringing the ball out from the back while Green has been around the first-team before, featuring on the bench in last year’s cup defeat away at Manchester City.

  Liverpool have many more talented youth players amongst their ranks and the development squad are currently on a 10 game winning streak. Read more on the development squad’s 2014/15 season so far here. Other players to watch out for over the next year are England youth international Maz Pacheco, Emilie Revitt and Olivia Wild – all part of the defence which has conceded just one competitive goal all season with impressive young goalkeeper Rachel Darbyshire between the posts.

 Players confirmed to have left the club include: Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Gemma Davison (Chelsea), Ellie Stewart (Everton), Megan Alexander (Everton), Nina Frausing (Potsdam), Amanda Da Costa (Washington Spirit).

 The game will be played at Select Stadium, Widnes. Entry is free and kick off at 2pm.


Liverpool Ladies sign African Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala

 Liverpool Ladies today announced the exciting signing of attacking midfielder Asisat Oshoala.

 Oshoala was top scorer at last summer’s U20 World Cup and was named Player of the Tournament leading to many top clubs chasing her signature, with Chelsea Ladies and PSG rumoured to be amongst them. 

 At the U20 World Cup Oshoala netted 7 goals on the road to the final for Nigeria, including 4 in the semi-final against North Korea. Nigeria were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the final.

 Following the World Cup, Asisat received a call-up to the senior squad for October’s African Women’s Championship. Nigeria won this tournament, beating Cameroon 2-0 in the final. Oshoala was once again named Player of the Tournament, scoring 4 goals including 2 in the semi-final and 1 in the final itself. 

 Follow Asisat on Twitter here.

Matt Beard interview with LFCTV

 Liverpool Ladies began pre-season last week, welcoming 3 new recruits alongside the host of first-team players who have recently committed their future to the club. Matt Beard sat down after training to give an interview to LFCTV on his thoughts of the season ahead.

 Q Today you welcomed the ladies back to training, how excited are you to pick up where you left off last season?

 A We’ve had a good morning so far, I’m looking forward to getting back on the training pitch because again it’s been a long close-season and we’re looking forward to getting our teeth back into getting the players fit, reinforcing our philosophy and hopefully having a good and successful season.

 Q The season doesn’t get underway until March, can you give us a brief run-down of how your preparations will take shape between now and then?

 A We’ve got 5 friendlies booked between now and the season starting, we will lose the players to international duty for about 4 weeks over the next 3 months so that’s why we’ve come in a little bit early than what we would have if we didn’t have any international disruptions. It’s about our new signings, introducing them to learning the Liverpool way and introducing them to the philosophy and the togetherness that the group has got. Starting all over again, we’ve got to make sure that we get the basic fundamentals back in to the players with regards to our defensive and attacking responsibilities and getting the players fit to play football.

 Q Do you feel that coming in early will give an advantage to you over your rivals?

 A I think most clubs are doing the same to be honest, I think it’s only Chelsea that may be coming in a little bit later. We had an issue last year where we came in at the end of January and we lost players to international duty shortly afterwards, that’s where our injuries started from so we want to make sure our players are fit to go away with their national team and it gives us an opportunity to get the philosophy back out of how we play and what we do, gives us more time with the players just to get them right.

 Q Having had a meeting with the players today before training, what was the main message?

 A To reintroduce the values of the football club, to remind them of where they are, who they’re playing for and then what’s expected of them – they are professional footballers and we’re expecting them to act in the right way with regard to their healthy lifestyle and then just to re-iterate what’s expected of them from a training perspective and targets for this season.

 Q Did you feel that having that meeting with the new players involved, do you reckon that will give a taster to them and get them settled in easier with regards to what playing for Liverpool Football Club is all about?

 A Yes, we did a montage for the players at the end focussing on 2013 and 2014 to remind them that we are the champions of England and to remind them of what we’re looking to achieve this season. For me personally I’m excited with this squad this year. I think we’ve got power and pace in all units and it’s a squad I’m excited to work with.

 Q After back-to-back titles, what are you aims now for this season – is it more of the same?

 A Yeah definitely, last year we won the league title with a 50% win rate. I’ve researched the premier league and the Championship and it’s never been done, the lowest percentage I found was in 2010 which was Man United with 60%. I think we’ll have to win 75% of our games this year if we are going to retain our title, Man City have strengthened considerably, Chelsea are doing the same at the moment and [this season is] probably going to be the most competitive and toughest year. As I said I’m confident with the players that we’re recruiting and I’m confident with this group that we can be successful this year. Me and my staff learnt a lot last year with the injuries that we had but still to retain the title in the manner that we did shows a lot about the character of not just the players but the whole set up.

 Q Despite the other clubs strengthening, do you still feel your side have got as every much a chance you have than say what you had going into the last game of the season?

 A I’m confident within the whole group. We tasted the Champions League last year and I knew what we needed to do to strengthen for that competition as well, one of the issues especially out in Sweden was the transition of their play from defensive to attack was phenomenal – that come down to power and pace and we’ve identified players that we’ve wanted to bring to the football club and I’m delighted that we’re nearly there with bringing the players in that we want to bring in. I think we’re going to be in a good position to go on and be successful this year and I didn’t really need to add a lot of bodies. We lost Lucy Bronze, who we didn’t want to lose but that’s part and parcel of football now and the rest of the players that have left the football club have left with our blessing. As I say the players that we’ve identified and want to bring in to improve the group, I think it’s going to be the best group that I’ve had since I’ve been the Liverpool manager.

 In his interview Matt mentions 5 pre-season friendlies, 3 of those so far have been announced to the public – Sunday 25th January, home v Aston Villa, 2pm / Wednesday 4th February, away v Derby County, 7:30pm / Sunday 22nd February, home v Yeovil, 2pm. Liverpool also played a behind-closed-doors friendly against Everton yesterday, with top scorer Natasha Dowie on target in the draw.

 Twitter – @LFCladiesfans
 Facebook – Liverpool Ladies FC news and updates

 Thanks to Liverpool Ladies Tumblr for the above interview.

Liverpool Ladies sign Satara Murray!

 Liverpool Ladies announced today that University of North Carolina defender Satara Murray will be joining the club ahead of the 2015 season.

 During her time at UNC, Satara Murray helped the team win the Championship in 2012 – scoring one and assisting another in the final against Penn State. That same year Murray was also named Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the NCAA College Cup.

 Long serving UNC coach Anson Dorrance has been quoted as saying “she’s always been one of the best dribblers… I know fans throughout her four years just loved seeing her knife through defenses.” Team mate Brooke Elby also pays homage to the defenders attacking attributes – “she’s got so much energy, her stamina is great.. she’ll just take off on a sprinting run.” Murray can play across the back line.

 Last season Murray played all but 16 minutes of UNC’s campaign and also played for Washington Spirit’s reserve side during the summer.

 Below you can see a video of Satara’s time at UNC, featuring highlights, mazy runs and comments from her coaches and team mates:

 Liverpool supporters will remember UNC as being the college that also gave us former reds defenders Lucy Bronze and Whitney Engen, if their standard is anything to go by then the signing of Murray is an extremely exciting one for fans of Liverpool Ladies. Murray also won the W-League title with Pali Blues in the US, another former club of Engen’s.

 Follow Satara on Twitter here: @sattttymay