MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool Ladies v Birmingham City Ladies

 On Wednesday 1st April reigning FAWSL champions Liverpool Ladies host Birmingham City Ladies at the Select Security Stadium, Widnes looking to get back to winning ways.

 The game kicks off at 7:30pm, tickets available on the gate priced at £5 adults and £2.50 for concessions.

 This will be the second meeting of the two sides in 2015 already, Birmingham having progressed to the quarter-finals of The FA Cup at the expense of Liverpool just last weekend.

 During their 3-1 win, Birmingham lost defender Chelsea Weston to an ACL injury which will rule her out for the entire league campaign ahead. Karen Carney is also currently out for the Blues through suspension/ injury, along with Freda Ayisi who picked up a 3 match ban in the 0-0 draw with Manchester City at the weekend while Kirsty Linnett could be a doubt after limping off the pitch late in the same game.

 As for Liverpool, the Reds are almost at full strength; midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir could make a welcome return from injury and Lucy Staniforth made her long-awaited return to competitive football last week. The only player Liverpool could be missing is Ashley Hodson, who is out for 2 months with a knee injury.

 On Sunday Birmingham battled Manchester City for 45 minutes with 10 players following Ayisi’s dismissal, putting in a good showing despite the conditions. Aoife Mannion is a powerful central defender, while stand-in captain Jade Moore has also been in good form.

 Liverpool will enter this game gunning for the 3 points, after back-to-back defeats the Reds will be determined to get their first win of the season. We haven’t seen the best of the new signings yet but the 4-1 pre-season win over Aston Villa shows that there is still goals in this side.

 Natasha Dowie was extremely unlucky not to score against Sunderland during the league opener, hitting the crossbar, and Nicole Rolser was looking her sharpest yet since coming back from an ACL injury.

 Next week 4 Liverpool Ladies players will be involved in international action – Natasha Dowie, Fara Williams and Gemma Bonner will all be with England on Thursday 9th April for their final pre-World Cup friendly against China in Manchester. Emilie Revitt is also in line to make her senior international debut after receiving a call-up to the Wales squad for their friendlies on Monday 6th and Wednesday 8th April against Slovakia. Good luck to all!


MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 2 Sunderland Ladies

 In the opening game of the FA Women’s Super League reigning champions Liverpool Ladies suffered a 2-1 home defeats at the hands of newly promoted Sunderland Ladies.
 Sunderland took a 1-0 lead in at half-time and doubled this when debutant Brooke Chaplen netted from the penalty spot, Satara Murray pulled one back for the Reds and Natasha Dowie hit the crossbar, but it was Sunderland who left with the crucial first 3 points on the table.
 Matt Beard made four changes to his Liverpool side from the Birmingham cup exit at the weekend, most notably bringing in both Martha Harris and Ingrid Ryland to play as wing backs with Corina Schroder moving alongside Satara Murray and captain Gemma Bonner in defence ahead of Libby Stout between the posts. Fara Williams, Asisat Oshoala and Natasha Dowie also retained their places, with Nicole Rolser coming in to play alongside Dowie and Katie Zelem also getting the nod in midfield. 
 Sunderland Ladies kicked off, immediately hitting a long ball forward which fell to the feet of Libby Stout. Stout passed the ball out from defence, however as Corina Schroder tried to pick out Nicole Rolser with a long ball out her own the pass was intercepted and sent out for a Sunderland throw. 
 It was the visitors who looked the brighter of the two teams during the opening stages, Sunderland’s England U23 international Beth Mead looking a constant threat, linking well with Keira Ramshaw on the right wing with a couple of nice touches out wide and then racing into the 18-yard box to wait for the cross. Later Mead skipped past Schroder, but her international team mate Martha Harris was wise to this and came from behind to tap the ball to Satara Murray.
 The two Reds combined also combined when full-back Abby Holmes broke into the Liverpool box, Murray dispossessing her on the touchline and Harris clearing.
 Liverpool’s first chance of the game came when Asisat Oshoala picked up on a loose ball in front of the Sunderland defence, cutting it back into the path of the incoming Fara Williams who shot first time but her drive trickled wide of the post. 5 minutes later Nicole Rolser almost managed to capitalise on a mix-up between the two centre-backs, her first touch a little heavy and Sunderland keeper Rachael Laws (league title winner with Liverpool in 2013) reacting quickly – Rolser ran into traffic, passing back to Ingrid Ryland who had made a forward run but the Norwegian could only shoot wide. 
 Rolser almost went through on goal again when Liverpool were quick to counter following a Sunderland free kick, Schroder blocking the ball forward and Fara Williams carrying it out and attempting to pick out the run of Rolser. Her run was well-matched by the defender and the ball fell to Laws. 
 Sunderland enjoyed a good spell midway through the first half, a couple of balls in from the left and a long-range strike from captain Steph Bannon. The Black Cats pressing meant that Liverpool’s wing backs were struggling to get forwards, more often being needed to help out at the back.
 The breakthrough came on 27 minutes, Keira Ramshaw whipping a cross in from the right which drifted past Liverpool’s back line and fell to the head of Beth Mead at the far post. Mead heading over the line to score the opening goal of the game and of the 2015 FAWSL season.
 Following the goal Liverpool appeared to press higher up the pitch, putting a number of balls into the box; first Corina Schroder’s cross was cleared before it could reach the head of Oshoala, then Gemma Bonner’s long ball forward for Natasha Dowie to chase was shielded out for a goal kick by Abby Holmes. Bonner put another good ball in moments later with Ingrid Ryland pressing forward and passing on to Dowie, out wide to Rolser and back to Bonner – her first time ball meeting Oshoala on the edge of the 6-yard box but she couldn’t get the right touch on it and the strike went over the crossbar. 
 Oshoala had become more involved as the game drew on, shortly before half-time losing possession in midfield but chasing it back all the way to the corner flag, winning back the ball without fouling and playing it out.
 HT – Liverpool Ladies 0 – 1 Sunderland Ladies

 Neither side made any changes at the break, with Liverpool emerging for the second half looking to test Sunderland’s resistance. Ingrid Ryland enjoyed a stellar half, getting herself far forward on the right and doing well on occasion to keep the ball in play, strongly holding off the Sunderland full back and earning a corner from which Oshoala headed wide. Ryland then swung a terrific ball across the 6-yard box toward fellow wing back Martha Harris, this was also cleared for a corner which despite being bandied about eventually landed in the arms of Rachael Laws. 
 Liverpool enjoyed the majority of possession during the second half, with Natasha Dowie dropping a little deeper at times to win the ball back in midfield – one interception almost seeing Nicole Rolser go through on goal after Fara Williams spotted her run. Rolser also appeared to go down in the box, nudged from behind just inside the area but nothing was given. 
 The Reds had a little luck go their way just before the hour mark, a Williams free kick was sent behind by Satara Murray – with the referee giving a corner in Liverpool’s favour. Unfortunately Liverpool couldn’t capitalize on this but they were looking the more likely to score.
 Williams superb forward pass picked out Ryland, who eluded the full-back to hit a cross towards goal, Laws collected but the linesman gave a corner, from which Oshoala headed wide. Oshoala also tried her luck from the corner of the 18-yard box, the strike curling towards the near post but caught by Laws.
 Matt Beard made a trio of second-half substitutions, Lucy Staniforth on for Oshoala in what was her first competitive appearance in 22 months following two successive ACL injuries. Line Smorsgard also made her league debut, along with 16-year old Mayumi Pacheco who was introduced during the closing stages.
 Despite all of Liverpool’s chances and domination in possession, they failed to convert and on  minutes Murray was adjudged to have fouled Beth Mead in the penalty area. Former Everton midfielder Brooke Chaplen stepped up to impressively score past Libby Stout from the post, with the second penalty Liverpool have conceded in 2 games. 
 Liverpool did pull a goal back, Murray scoring on her league debut for the club but despite Natasha Dowie hitting the crossbar with a header and Lucy Staniforth also striking the bar with the rebound, the Reds just couldn’t find an equaliser and the game finished 2-1 to Sunderland Ladies.  
 XI Stout, Ryland, Bonner (C), Murray, Schroder, Harris, Williams, Zelem, Oshoala, Rolser, Dowie
 POTM Nicole Rolser
 Liverpool Ladies are next in action Wednesday 1st April, when they welcome Birmingham City Ladies to Select Stadium, Widnes in the league. 

Fara Williams Twitter Q & A

 Earlier today Liverpool Ladies midfielder and vice captain Fara Williams completed a question and answer session on Twitter. If you missed it or were unable to follow for any reason, I have compiled each question and answer below!

 Q @DarrylB1979 Who’s the best player you have played with and against?

 A The best player I have played with is Kelly Smith. Played against it would probably be Simone Laudehr.

 Q @Emma042198 Where is the one place in the world you would love to visit that you have never been before?

 A I would have to say Aruba in the Caribbean.

 Q Emma042198 If Liverpool Ladies could play any team in the world, who would you like to play against?

 A I would like to play against Olympique Lyonnais.

 Q @kopchick71 If you had to pick a womens England team from past & present players who would be in your team?

 A 5 a side team I have played with would be – Pauline Cope, Mo Marley, Me, Katie Chapman and Kelly Smith.

 Q @kirstycassella If you could pick to play alongside 3 players men or women from any country who would it be and why?

 A It would be Marta, Lionel Messi and Steven Gerrard.

 Q @kirstycassella Who is your sporting role model?

 A I would probably say Zinedine Zidane.

 Q @kirstycassella If you could pick anyone in the world to manage or coach you, who would it be and why?

 A I would say Jose Mourinho – he’s a born winner.

 Q  @ChelseaF58 Who’s autograph would you most like to have & why?

 A Zinedine Zidane.

 Q @bantam75 If you could choose Champions League medal, World Cup medal or Olympic medal which would it be?

 A Tough question but I would have to say World Cup medal.

 Q @clodagh_donovan What’s the 3 most important things a player needs to play at the highest level?

 A Self drive, personality and mental toughness.

 Q @Amy_H_ Would you rather go 5 days without food or five days without sleep?

 A haha I love food so will have to leave the sleep!

 Q @TheFemaleDugout Would you want to go into a backroom staff role or coaching role after football? If not, what next.

 A I would like to get involved with coaching and then potentially go into management.

 Q @JoannaSimpson21 Do you have a ritual / lucky routine you do before each game? & if so what is it?

 A For I always walk out on to the pitch last.

 Q @lisa_thomas31 If you were to give 1 piece of advice to a youth player having experienced the highs & lows of women’s football, what would it be?

 A Don’t get complacent with success and continue to work hard setting yourself new targets.

 Q @LLFCSuperFan What was it like to win the FA WSL title two times in a row? What did the team do to celebrate that?

 A It was the best feeling ever! We just went for a team meal as we had a Champions League game four days later!

 Q @scoobydoorea Are you impressed with the continuous grown of the women’s game in terms of support and attendances?

 A Yeah the improvement has been really impressive and we need to ensure we maintain the growth of the women’s game.

 Q @leythal Let’s be random, thunder cats or my little pony?

 A My little pony!!

 Q @Lydia_RoseShaw You’ve won 7 medals apart from your individual ones….. What was your most satisfying?

 A Definitely winning the league.

 Q @Buntinglad What is your favourite goal you have scored?

 A I would probably say the free kick I scored against Arsenal last season.

 Q @mrs_bradders1 Why does Matt Beard call you by your first name on the pitch but shouts ,’Bonner’ at Gemma?

 A because I’m the boss LOL!

 Q @IngridRyland who your fav Norwegian?

 A It would have to be Line as she has better banter than you!

 Q @LFCladiesfans How does it feel to be the most capped England player of all-time?

 A It’s a huge honour and it was a very proud moment for myself and my family.

 Q @Anita_Shorty_H You have done remarkable work with Liverpool Homeless FC – what is your memorable occasion with them?

 A Seeing some of the changes they have made in their personal life.

 @fara_williams47 Congratulations to @bantam75 who is the winner of a signed pair of boots for the best question! Thanks to everyone for tweeting in questions.

 For more information on Fara’s work with Liverpool Homeless, I wrote an article on the blog here: ‘MORE THAN JUST A GAME’.

MATCH PREVIEW: Liverpool Ladies v Sunderland Ladies

 On Wednesday 25th March Liverpool Ladies begin the defence of their Women’s Super League title, going for 3 in a row after winning the league in 2013 and 2014. First up for Liverpool are league newcomers Sunderland Ladies, promoted from the second division on the final day of their season.
 The game will kick off at 7:45pm, Select Stadium, Widnes. Tickets are available on the gate for £5 adults, £2.50 concessions with free entry for Anfield season ticket holders and also live on BT Sport for those who cannot make it. 
Champions 2014
 Liverpool Ladies go into this game just days after an FA Cup exit away to Birmingham City, the Reds travelled to the midlands club for arguably the hardest of the fifth round ties. For a full in-depth look at the game, read my match report on The Anfield Wrap
 Despite the defeat it is important to look at the positives Liverpool’s first competitive game of 2015 can show us, Natasha Dowie looked sharp and took her goal well from a Corina Schroder cross after Line Smorsgard had beaten her marker well at the corner flag. Dowie’s goal came as Liverpool enjoyed perhaps their brightest period of the game, reignited after going one-nil down and drawing the scores level before an excellent free kick from Jo Potter put Birmingham back ahead.
 Becky Easton was once again tough in the tackle at the back, with countless crunching sliding challenges and seemingly appearing from nowhere on a couple of occasions, getting back across the back line to snuff out the Blues attack.
 Reds No.1 Libby Stout also looked confident at the back, claiming a trio of second-half free-kicks with ease and attempting each time to set the Liverpool attack back on the offensive. Stout was unlucky to concede a last-minute penalty, diving the right way and getting a hand to Remi Allen’s spot kick however the Birmingham midfielder converted to make the score 3-1 and confirm their place in the next round. 
 In regards to Wednesday’s opposition Sunderland Ladies, the two sides faced off twice last season with Liverpool running out winners in both games. First an FA Cup victory away in which Martha Harris and Natasha Dowie scored either side of half-time and then in the Continental Cup where Sunderland were without first choice keeper Rachael Laws and crashed to a 6-0 defeat. Dowie netted a hat trick, Gemma Davison scored her first goal in a red shirt with Corina Schroder and Katrin Omarsdottir completing the rout.
 Omarsdottir was missing during Sunday’s cup game, injury presumably ruling her out alongside Ashley Hodson. Lucy Staniforth however is edging ever closer to her first competitive appearance in almost 2 years after playing 20 minutes during the development squad’s 1-0 defeat away at Birmingham at the weekend. 
Lucy Staniforth during pre-season
 For the view from the opposition I spoke to Sunderland supporter Katie Hume, who talks us through how the Black Cats pre-season went, their key players and her score prediction for the game.
 Q Sunderland Ladies were promoted on the final day of the WSL2 season, how much are you looking forward to your first season of top flight football?
 A I’m really looking forward to finally seeing Sunderland play top flight football, over the last few years we’ve been known for producing top class players such as Jill Scott, Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and of course Liverpool’s Lucy Staniforth to name just a few. I think it’s brilliant for the club to be finally playing alongside the big names in women’s football. 
 Q Sunderland have played a fair few pre-season games [most recently beating Durham WFC 3-1], how have they gone? They also exited The FA Cup in the 4th round, will that mean they can concentrate more on preparing for the league campaign?
 A It’s the first season in charge for [new manager] Carlton Fairweather as Mick Mulhurn stepped down after many successful years at the club, so pre-season has been incredibly important for the team to adjust to Fairweather’s playing style. The exit from The FA Cup was hard to take with a last minute winner from Aston Villa, but I think it has allowed us to focus more on our opening league games.
 Q What are your realistic expectations for the season, are you feeling confident?
 A If we learnt anything from the WSL1 last season it’s how unpredictable the league can be, I think everyone out there should be playing to win it. Our first 2 games will be difficult, with Liverpool away then Manchester City at home a week later; if we can take points from those games it will be a good push for us. Realistically I believe we could have the ability to finish mid-table.
 Q Who are your 3 key players to look out for? With the exception of Rachael Laws, who Liverpool supporters will remember fondly from her role in the club’s first league title, keeping a clean sheet on the final day of the season for the Reds to lift the trophy.
Sunderland No.1, former Reds stopper Rachael Laws
 A Anyone who watched the U20 World Cup last year will recognise the name Beth Mead for her amazing goal against Mexico. Beth scored 13 goals in WSL2 last season, finishing as the league’s second highest scorer and showing just how dangerous she is in front of goal; she’s a player we’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming years. A second key player for us is Keira Ramshaw, she was brilliant for us throughout last season, racking up a number of important goals and assists and I’m excited to see what she can do in WSL1. We’ve been quiet in the transfer window however recently signed Brooke Chaplen, a free agent following her departure from the relegated Everton Ladies, a lot of Liverpool fans will be familiar with her and hopefully she’ll make her debut on Wednesday night. Along with Laws she will bring experience of WSL1 into the team.
 Q Finally, what is your score prediction for the game?
 A After seeing both teams play in pre-season, I think this will be a close game. I’m hoping we just edge it so I’m going with 2-1 to Sunderland – with goals from Ramshaw, Mead and Staniforth (#StanWatch).
 The game promises to be an exciting start to a new WSL season, with the league looking more competitive yet again this year there is no better time to start following Liverpool Ladies.
 Updates will be provided on Twitter for those who can’t make the game or watch on BT Sport via @LFCladiesfans.

MATCH REPORT: Birmingham City Ladies 3 – 1 Liverpool Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies exited The FA Cup in the fifth round earlier today after a 3-1 defeat away at Birmingham City Ladies. Natasha Dowie had scored a first-half equaliser for the reds before Birmingham scored twice more either side of half-time to take themselves into the quarter-finals.

Photo – Ian Mok

 Three of Liverpool’s winter signings were given their first competitive starts, with Asisat Oshoala starting and playing just behind Natasha Dowie and in between fellow new arrival Line Smorsgard and Kate Longhurst. Satara Murray also made her debut alongside captain Gemma Bonner in defence, Becky Easton at right-back and Corina Schroder on the left in front of Libby Stout in goal. Fara Williams and Hannah Dale completed the starting 11 in the centre of the reds midfield.

 Birmingham got the cup tie underway, with Hannah Dale standing strong in midfield, winning possession and drawing a foul. Despite this Liverpools struggled to retain possession during the opening stages, Becky Easton was called into action early on with one of her now trademark sliding tackles after Birmingham slipped the ball through, beating the reds central defenders.

 Liverpool conceded a number of corners in quick succession on two occasions in the first half, Birmingham swinging good balls into the box but poor finishing preventing them initially from taking the lead – first a shot going wide of the post and then a header.

 It wasn’t all Birmingham however with the reds having a good couple of opportunities themselves, Asisat Oshoala was winning every header and an early flick-on to Natasha Dowie was returned to the reds no.14 but her cross went behind the line.

 Next Liverpool had a corner of their own, Fara Williams’ set piece was cleared only as far as Hannah Dale. Dale was closed down, turned and passed back to Becky Easton who had spotted Williams still in space out on the right wing; sending the ball back out wide to the midfielder but her first time volley shot/ cross was saved by Birmingham keeper Becky Spencer.

 Another Liverpool chance came when Line Smorsgard attempted to quickly break out after a Birmingham corner. Smorsgard was fouled and Gemma Bonner’s free kick almost made it to the feet of Dowie who was beaten to the ball by the quick to react Spencer.

 Liverpool then found themselves under pressure again, the Birmingham midfield pressing high up the pitch and causing the reds defence problems. Twice forcing Bonner to see the ball back safely to Libby Stout.

 The hosts did soon find themselves in the lead shortly after 15 minutes, captain on the afternoon Jade Moore slipping through to score the opening goal.

 Birmingham’s opener seemed to revitalise the reds as they began to push for an equaliser. Kate Longhurst seen a header saved after a Fara Williams cross and Corina Schroder and Line Smorsgard almost combined to set Williams herself up moments later.

 Liverpool’s efforts were soon rewarded, similar to an earlier play, Gemma Bonner sent a free kick hurtling towards to left corner flag. Line Smorsgard picked the ball up, brilliantly beating the right-back and sending the ball back toward the incoming Schroder who’s first time cross was headed over the line by Natasha Dowie to draw the score level and make it 1-1.

Photo – Ian Mok

 Following the equaliser Birmingham’s Chelsea Weston went down off the ball, picking up what looked to be a serious knee injury. Weston received lengthy treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off.

 When play resumed Liverpool conceded a free kick 25-yards out for England international Jo Potter to put Birmingham back in the lead with a great strike.

 8 minutes of injury time at the end of the first-half wasn’t enough for Liverpool to grab a second equaliser and they went in at the break trailing 2-1.

 Half-time : Birmingham City 2 – 1 Liverpool Ladies

 Out for the second-half, Matt Beard made no changes to his Liverpool side.

 It was to be a frustrating 45 minutes for the reds, made no easier by a couple of poor refereeing decisions. A throw-in deep in their own half given against them was to be the least of Liverpool’s worries after Asisat Oshoala was seemingly pulled backwards in the 18-yard box after an excellent cross in from the right. It certainly looked to be a foul but nothing was given.

 Liverpool again found themselves under pressure, a mazy run by Melissa Lawley seen her pass a number of red shirt before Becky Easton was across to snuff the danger out. Line Smorsgard also got an important touch on Jade Moore’s long distance strike, doing just enough to divert the ball into the arms of Libby Stout.

 Stout had a great second-half, catching a number of free kicks in the 18-yard box and quickly sending the ball out in an attempt to catch the blues on the counter attack. One particular counter seen Natasha Dowie get a lovely touch on the ball, clipping it out wide to Ingrid Ryland (who had just replaced Becky Easton in a straight swap at right-back), the Norwegian sent it forward to Oshoala but her cross went behind for a goal kick.

Photo – Ian Mok

 Katie Zelem and Nicole Rolser also came on during the second-half, replacing Hannah Dale and Line Smorsgard, as Liverpool chased an equaliser. Rolser with a chance to equalise after Williams let the ball roll under her foot just outside the 18-yard box but the strike went agonisingly over the crossbar. The winger also nearly set Bonner up for a chance late on, her cross falling to the reds captain but her drive wide.

 Committing so many players forward left Liverpool exposed slightly at the back and, as the half progressed, Birmingham became more content to sit back – one corner with roughly 5 minutes of normal time to play seen the hosts try to hold the ball up by the corner flag, Fara Williams back to win a throw for Liverpool. Williams was once again the driving force in midfield, pressing forward looking for an opening while getting back to cover the back four.

 In what would be almost the final kick of the game, Murray unfortunately conceded a penalty. Stout guessed the right way and got a hand to Remi Allen’s spot kick but couldn’t prevent it from going in. The game finishing 3-1 to the home side, who progress to The FA Cup quarter-finals.

 Full-time : Birmingham City 3 – 1 Liverpool Ladies (Moore, Potter, Allen (pen) / Dowie)

 POTM Fara Williams

 XI Stout, Easton (Ryland), Murray, Bonner (C), Schroder, Williams, Dale (Zelem), Smorsgard (Rolser), Oshoala, Longhurst, Dowie

 Unused subs – Gibbons, Harris

Photo – Ian Mok

 As disappointing as it is to go out of the cup so early on, Liverpool’s attention must now turn to Wednesday night as they begin the defence of their Women’s Super League title. Newly promoted Sunderland Ladies are first up for the reds, kick off is at 7:45pm, Select Stadium, Widnes. Entry is £5 adults, £2.50 concessions, free for Anfield season ticket holders and the game will be live on BT Sport for those who cannot make it. A match preview will be up tomorrow evening.

 Thanks Ian Mok for the photos used in this match report!

MATCH PREVIEW: Birmingham City v Liverpool Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies are back in competitive action tomorrow afternoon with a fifth round FA Cup tie away at Birmingham City.

 The game kicks off at 2pm, Birmingham play their home games at Solihull Moors FC (B91 2PP) with tickets on the gate priced at £6 for adults and £3 concessions. There is no live coverage of the game on radio or tv, meaning Twitter will be your only way to follow online via the official club accounts or @LFCladiesfans.

 For a full look at the season ahead, check out my Season Preview on This Is Anfield here; including a pre-season round-up, Liverpool’s new signings and key games for the upcoming Women’s Super League campaign.

 Liverpool took on 5 teams during pre-season, in and around the various breaks for international games, winning 3, drawing 1 and losing 1. The reds scored 14 goals, with contributions from all areas of the pitch and 3 of the 4 new signings scoring on their debuts. Natasha Dowie was of course the top scorer with 4 strikes to her name, including the winning goal in a 1-0 win over Everton Ladies at the beginning of March.

 Birmingham on the other hand have had no public pre-season friendlies, meaning that the team that finished a point behind Liverpool in last seasons WSL are somewhat an unknown entity.

 The midlands side have retained the majority of the squad that exceeded all expectations last year, keeper Becky Spencer will not have fond memories of the last time she faced Fara Williams while Karen Carney, Jo Potter, Jade Moore and Kirsty Linnett all also return along with a defence that contains Kerys Harrop and Aoife Mannion.

 Last time Liverpool were in Birmingham, the reds picked up a huge 3 points controversially after Fara Williams chipped the winning goal over Becky Spencer seconds after the blues had equalised. Birmingham were furious claiming the referee had not yet blown for the restart, but the goal stood and Liverpool ran out 2-1 winners on the afternoon.

 Tomorrow also marks a new era for LFCladiesfans, I’m excited to tell you that The Anfield Wrap will be publishing my match reports on their website now (as well as on here) and I will also be joining TAW for a new monthly podcast all about Liverpool Ladies. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on that as it comes!

 As ever thanks for following/ reading these blogs, LFCLF is 2 years old on Wednesday and I have a great time reporting back for all those who cannot make the games. It was actually from an overseas supporter that this opportunity with TAW has come about and I couldn’t be more grateful – thanks Damian!

 – Heather

MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 1 Doncaster Belles

 Liverpool Ladies drew 1-1 with Doncaster Belles in their final pre-season friendly earlier tonight. Gemma Bonner opened the scoring after coming on at half-time, Doncaster grabbed their equaliser during the final 10 minutes.

 The final 10 minutes of the game also seen reds midfielder Lucy Staniforth make a welcome return from injury, the last time Lucy played was February during last years pre-season and it was great to see her back on the pitch.

 Natasha Dowie led the line for Liverpool, captaining the side with Gemma Bonner starting on the bench. Ashley Hodson played to Dowie’s right with Line Smorsgard on the left and Asisat Oshoala behind her. Hannah Dale started her second game in a row for the reds, alongside Katie Zelem in midfield, in front the back four of Ingrid Ryland, Satara Murray, Becky Easton and Corina Schroder with Libby Stout in goal.

 Most of Liverpool’s attacking play in the first-half went down the left side of the pitch with Corina Schroder working well with Line Smorsgard, the latter really beginning to stand out and create opportunities going forward. Asisat Oshoala was also a bright spark throughout, battling to win the ball back and running the midfield.

 During 2013 Liverpool won countless free kicks due to Nicole Rolser drawing plenty of fouls, Smorsgard was the same this evening – winning an early free kick – while the Norwegian was also putting good crosses into the box.

 The best chance of the first-half fell to Natasha Dowie; Liverpool had quickly countered after Becky Easton had blocked a Doncaster cross at the other end, Libby Stout saving the corner and playing the ball out to Smorsgard who passed to Ashley Hodson. With the ball up in the final third, Oshoala won possession back, sending the ball out wide to Smorsgard who swung a cross in but Dowie just couldn’t connect right with it.

 Dowie also had a chance on the stroke of half-time after a good run and strike from the edge of the 18-yard box, the Doncaster defender getting across in time to block.

 Doncaster attempted to breach the reds backline on a number of occasions, Hannah Dale matching one run and doing just enough to put the striker off their strike, her midfield partner Katie Zelem was also back to defend well on occasion.

 Becky Easton started at centre back and won every header, while Satara Murray read play well during the first 45 minutes – twice beating the striker to the ball with ease, turning and carrying the ball away from danger.

 Asisat Oshoala looks better as each game goes on, a real catalyst in the reds attack. Oshoala battled her way past 3 Donny players before being dispossessed early on, then linked well with Dowie, playing a quick one-two and receiving the ball back well only to see her shot blocked. Oshoala also seen another shot saved after chesting the ball down at the corner of the box and turning to shoot first time.

 Despite chances for both sides, the game remained goalless at the break.

 Out for the second half, Matt Beard made 4 changes to his Liverpool side. Danielle Gibbons came in for Libby Stout and would produce a wonderful fingertips save to push a goal bound strike over the crossbar. Gemma Bonner also took to the pitch, replacing Ingrid Ryland with Bonner partnering Murray in the centre defence and Becky Easton moving out to right-back. Fara Williams came on for Hannah Dale in a straight swap and Kate Longhurst on for Ashley Hodson.

 Liverpool looked brighter during the opening stages of the second half, Kate Longhurst has enjoyed a brilliant pre-season and looked sharp attacking down the right. Longhurst first came into the action with a good cross in from the right, this was cleared just before it could reach Katie Zelem and Smorsgard couldn’t quite get there for the rebound. Next Longhurst cut into the box herself, beating two players and shooting with her left foot but the keeper dived to save.

 With Fara Williams in midfield the reds also looked a bit more composed, Williams cleaning up in defence after one early Donny attack.

 Liverpool took the lead around the 60-minute mark, Oshoala winning the corner, Williams swinging it in. A scramble in the box ensued with Dowie almost scoring from the same place she scored her winner against Everton last week, Gemma Bonner was the player to finally poke the ball over the line, scoring her first goal of 2015 just days after winning the Cyprus Cup with England.

 Martha Harris came on for Becky Easton shortly after the goal, looking sharp with a couple of good runs and constantly looking to get forward and assist the attack – against her Dad’s club as well!

 Then came the moment Liverpool supporters had waited 55 weeks, 385 days, 9240 hours, 33,264,000 seconds* for: the return of Lucy Staniforth from injury. Staniforth had last appeared for Liverpool in 2014 pre-season during the win over Yeovil and it was fantastic to see her take back to the pitch in the red of Liverpool.

 Staniforth was immediately in the action, first on the left and then switching to the right and playing an excellent through ball to Oshoala, Oshoala found Zelem but Fara Williams couldn’t convert the cross.

 Gemma Bonner almost added a second from another corner, her header on target but saved by ex-Everton keeper Danielle Hill.

 Doncaster Belles pulled a goal back after a mixup in the Liverpool defence and the game played out to a 1-1 draw.

 XI Stout (Gibbons), Ryland (Bonner), Murray, Easton (Harris), Schroder, Dale (Williams), Zelem, Oshoala, Smorsgard (Staniforth), Hodson (Longhurst), Dowie (C)

 POTM Lucy Staniforth

 Next up for Liverpool, Matt Beard’s side are back in competitive action with a tough FA Cup tie away at Birmingham City next Sunday 22nd March. There will be a preview on the blog later in the week for this game.

 *approximate figures

A Guide to the City of Liverpool

 Welcome to LFC Ladies Fans guide to the City of Liverpool! I am proud to be teaming up with Premier Inn to create this guide and I hope that you find it useful. 

 Liverpool is a city renowned for its great football teams, friendly locals and enjoyable nightlife. This guide is aimed at visiting supporters, whether they are in town for a men’s or women’s game and will seek to recommend restaurants, bars and things of interest to do around the city.

 There are 3 Premier Inns in Liverpool, for rooms and rates click here

 3 Vernon Street, off Duke Street.
 48 Hanover Street.
 East Britannia Building, Albert Dock.


 Over the last 2-3 years many new restaurants have opened across Liverpool city centre, joining the already vast options on offer and meaning that no matter what, whatever type of food you fancy – there will be something for you!

 First stop: Liverpool’s burger bars. There are a number of places in the city centre that specialise in burgers, arguably the most popular being Almost Famous. Having recently revamped their menu to feature 9 staple burgers, each more extravagant than the last – 203 On A Bun (cheese, beef chili, mac & cheese patty, jalopeno relish and million island) and  Wonderland (cheese, bacon, fried chicken, slaw, cherry coke bbq sauce, million island dressing) to name just two. A personal favourite is the River Phoenix burger with frazzles and baconaise. Almost Famous is under a 5-minute walk from Premier Inn on Hanover Street and also has an interesting take on a drinks menu. 

  If you prefer to try something a little different from the norm, Bold Street is the place for you. Starting with Lebanese street food and Bakchich which is situated about half way up Bold Street and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner Arabic style. The menu is reasonably priced, starting from a Chicken Shawarma wrap for just £3.50. Bakchich also offers a number of lamb dishes and all of it’s Mashawi/ Charcoal Grills are served with Arabic rice and bread. 

 The newest addition to Bold Street is Mowgli, serving traditional Indian street food tapas style. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the menu – comfortably assisting one of my friends on her choices – and also offered tasters of their must-have Lassi’s, a traditional yoghurt based drink. Mowgli has 4 flavours on offer and I can recommend the Mango. An interesting part to the menu is the Tiffin box for one, priced at £12 and described as “food roulette, total pot luck” – the chef chooses 4 dishes for you.


 Liverpool’s bar and club scene is thriving, new places pop up constantly and there is something for every night of the week, pre-match and post-match.

 To enjoy an afternoon before heading to Anfield to watch a game, you can’t go far wrong with the Bierkeller – 3 bars within a bar; Around the World in 80 Beers, Shooters Bar and The Barvarian Bierkeller.  During the daytime the Shooters Bar is an ideal place to wile away the hours with it’s relaxed and casual atmosphere, live sport channels throughout the day and pool tables, table football and video games. Drinks prices are on par with the rest of the city, beer bottles start from £2.00 and pints from £3.30. There is also a football themed burger menu, featuring ‘The Gerrard’ and ‘The Big Dunc’ amongst others.

 If you’re headed on a night out in the city, looking to (hopefully) celebrate a win O’Neills is the place to start. An Irish pub on the corner of Wood Street and Hanover Street and always busy during evenings, particularly when Liverpool are playing at home. Television screens are placed around the pub so you can catch highlights from the game you’ve just seen and from others. From O’Neills, Liverpool is your oyster! 

 Wood Street leads up towards tequila bar Cava (well worth a quick stop if only for a look at the array of film posters on display – and a taste of their one-of-a-kind baked bean tequila) and also consists of a couple of nightclubs, further up and to the right you can also find Concert Square. A good place to sit outside on warm nights, the square is surrounded by clubs and bars with one large communal outside area with benches and high-rise tables to sit at. 

 A personal favourite of mine for a night out is relatively new bar, Empire. Although the door staff can be quite strict with enforcing a dress code – trainers are not acceptable here. Empire is a stylish bar, located on Seel Street with a great cocktail menu including the brilliantly named ‘Tequila Mockingbird’ and ‘The Dark Rum Rises’. The highlight of Empire is its outside area, heated year-round and with a relaxed easygoing vibe, this is a bar where you and your friends can choose to dance inside or have a conversation outside. 

 After you’ve had a couple of drinks and you just want to dance, it’s usually time to head towards a nightclub. Enter: Level! Level is perfectly situated amongst the bars already mentioned in this guide, half way up Fleet Street and less than a 5-minute walk from O’Neills and Empire. There are three levels: level 1 is open first and is the only floor open until the club starts to fill up around midnight, when all three floors are open level 1 plays dance and house music, level 2 r’n’b and level 3 pop. On the weekend the club remains open until 4am.


 If your trip to watch Liverpool means you are in the city for a few days, there are a wide variety of sightseeing options and activities no matter the weather. 

 The first stop for any Liverpool supporter has to be the stadium tour and museum at Anfield. Tours are available on match days however I believe are cut short and would also imagine the museum would be quite busy, if you have the opportunity to go the day before or after I would recommend this instead. The tour starts at the Bill Shankly statue, takes you through the press room, allows you to have a look inside the team changing room and touch the famous This Is Anfield sign before taking your place in the dugout having walked out the tunnel. 

 After the tour head inside to check out the club museum which features artifacts from Liverpool’s long and illustrious history – from the 5 European Cups, league title winning medals and, the most recent addition, the Women’s Super League trophy. 

 Back in the city and down at the Pier Head there are a number of museums and art galleries to keep you busy during the day. The Museum of Liverpool has a large football section with memorabilia from both Liverpool and Everton while the Maritime Museum tells the history of Liverpool as a port, including the part it played in the creation of the Titanic. Both museums are within easy walking distance of each other, a 15-minute walk from the city centre. While in the area you could also take the ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’ and have a walk around the Albert Dock, which is dotted with cafes and restaurants and even a modern art gallery – the Tate!

 Liverpool also has a great outdoor shopping centre, Liverpool One. This opened in 2008 and features all the best-known high street brands, the top floor also has an array of chain restaurants with everything from Wagamamas to Nandos alongside an Odeon cinema and a crazy golf course – Jungle Rumble. 

 A short walk from Liverpool One you can find the city’s two cathedrals – The Anglican (Church of England) and The Metropolitan (Catholic). On a clear day the views from the top of the Anglican across the city are superb, looking out towards the River Mersey you can see all the way to the mountains of Wales on a good day! The Metropolitan is more modern looking than the Anglican, yet also worth a visit to have a look at the beautiful stained glass windows. 

 Finally it wouldn’t be a guide to Liverpool if The Beatles didn’t pop up at some point! If you’re a fan of the band there is no end to things to see and do around the city centre and its outer areas, the best way to see the majority of The Beatles attractions would be to book onto the Magical Mystery Tour for a 2-hour trip that begins at the Albert Dock and takes you to both Strawberry Field and Penny Lane. 

 Liverpool Ladies

 Regular followers of this blog will be more than aware of Liverpool Ladies recent successes, in 2013 the club that had finished bottom of the Women’s Super League in their first two years was overhauled by new manager Matt Beard and his team – who replaced almost all of the starting 11. In the two years since Liverpool have topped the table, bringing silverware and Champions League football to the club for the first time in their history.

 Amongst their ranks are captain and England international Gemma Bonner, all-time record England caps holder and influential midfielder Fara Williams, goal machine and club top scorer Natasha Dowie and new signing, Nigerian star Asisat Oshoala. 

 The womens season runs from March – October, with Liverpool competing on 4 fronts – the league, FA Cup, Continental Cup and Champions League. Tickets are priced at only £5 per game for adults, concessions £2.50.

 Liverpool Ladies currently play their home games at Select Stadium, Widnes – 20-minute train journey from Liverpool or 40 minutes on the bus. I can wholeheartedly recommend the football that the women play, we have some fantastic, great to watch internationals along with talented youth players coming through the ranks and benefitting from the clubs turnaround a couple of years ago. 

 Thank you for reading this guide to Liverpool! It is by no means definitive; the city has so much to offer to visitors. If you have any questions about any places mentioned here, or you want even more suggestions don’t hesitate to contact me on @LFCladiesfans and I hope to see you at a Liverpool Ladies game soon!

MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Everton Ladies

 Tonight seen Liverpool Ladies take on Everton Ladies in their fourth pre-season friendly, Natasha Dowie scored the only goal of the game in the second-half as she captained the reds in Gemma Bonner’s absence.

 Liverpool were without a number of first-team players with England U23 trio Satara Murray, Ashley Hodson and Martha Harris unavailable for selection having arrived back from La Manga earlier today, Katie Zelem and Mollie Green with England U19s, captain Gemma Bonner and Fara Williams both with the seniors at the Cyrpus Cup and Katrin Omarsdottir away with Iceland at the Algarve Cup.

Mike Price / Liverpool Echo

 This gave an opportunity to more development squad players to make the step up to the first-team with Kess Elmore making her debut during the second-half and Olivia Fuller amongst the substitutes.

 Starting in goal for Liverpool was no.1 Libby Stout, making her first start of 2015. Ingrid Ryland retained her place at right-back, Becky Easton and Emilie Revitt in the centre of defence and Corina Schroder on the left. Hannah Dale played in the centre of midfield with an attacking front five ahead of her in Asisat Oshoala, Nicole Rolser, Line Smorsgard, Kate Longhurst and Natasha Dowie ahead of her.

 Everton also had a number of players away on international duty, most notably their two recent acquisitions from Liverpool with Claudia Walker and Ellie Stewart both away with England. Megan Alexander did start however for the blues, putting in an impressive shift at left-back and playing an important part at the back.

 Getting the action underway, Everton passed straight back to their defence before lobbing a long ball forward for their striker to chase but the assistant referees flag was up for offside.

Mike Walsh / Liverpool Echo

 It was in fact the blues who looked sharper of the two teams during the opening stages, despite this Liverpool had a couple of early chances; first Natasha Dowie held the ball well, backing into the Everton defender to play in Kate Longhurst on the left – Longhurst crossed to Smorsgard and the ball went out for a corner. A good delivery from Corina Schroder met the head of Longhurst but the header was blocked, Emilie Revitt sent the ball back forwards seconds later for Line Smorsgard to send an audacious effort inches away from the top right corner.

 Everton soon turned the pressure on the reds, Libby Stout collecting the first cross which was sent back in and cleared by Ingrid Ryland for an Everton corner. Despite having three consecutive the toffees could not create a clear goal scoring opportunity and the ball was eventually well headed away by Becky Easton.

 Liverpool were attempting to try and play the ball around and patiently build up their attack, Line Smorsgard enjoyed her best performance in a Liverpool shirt and was constantly moving linking the midfield to the attack, drawing fouls and being unlucky not to find herself on the score sheet – particularly during the first 30 minutes.

Mike Walsh / Liverpool Echo

 It was then the reds turn to have a couple of corners in quick succession, Hannah Dale is the set piece extraordinaire for the development squad and again proved to be impressive from dead ball situations tonight; Dale’s first corner was sent out for another after Oshoala seen a shot blocked and the second almost fell kindly to Natasha Dowie.

 Captain for the night Dowie and Liverpool would have to wait until the second-half to open the scoring, Liverpool coming out for the second 30 minutes with a renewed energy and Maz Pacheco coming of for Corina Schroder at left-back.

 Liverpool crept closer and closer to opening the scoring with Dowie at the heart of every attack, a powerful charge from Smorsgard ended with a through ball to Dowie on the edge of the area – the defender just getting there to clear. The reds no.9 then showcased her skills out wide, taking on the Everton centre-back and getting the better of her to send a cross in – this went straight across the face of goal, falling to Pacheco who won a corner from which Dowie saw a shot saved from close range.

 Nicole Rolser was also denied the chance to open the scoring when ex-Liverpool defender Megan Alexander got back to clear her goal bound strike off the line.

 Natasha Dowie finally opened the scoring for Liverpool on 42 minutes, a great ball into the box from Hannah Dale first connected with Asisat Oshoala but fell to Dowie; her first header blocked and falling to her feet, from which she made no mistake within the 6-yard box and continued her pleasing trend of scoring against her former club.

Mike Walsh / Liverpool Echo

 The goal would be the only strike of the game, as Liverpool comfortably seen out the victory with Becky Easton providing a solid display at centre-back alongside Emilie Revitt. Kess Elmore was introduced as a substitute during the second-half, coming on for Hannah Dale.

 While there would be no more goals, Liverpool did provide supporters with a wonderful passage of play. Oshoala dummied Ingrid Ryland’s forward pass, this reached Natasha Dowie on the half way line who tapped the ball back into the path of Oshoala. Rolser made the run forward on the right wing, Oshoala playing her in, getting 25 yards out from goal herself and receiving the return pass but seeing her shot blocked by the defence.

The final action of the game seen a speculative long-range effort from an Everton midfielder sail over Libby Stout’s crossbar.

 Kess Elmore was introduced as a substitute during the second-half, coming on for Hannah Dale.

 XI Stout, Ryland, Easton, Revitt, Schroder (Pacheco), Dale (Elmore), Oshoala, Rolser, Smorsgard, Longhurst, Dowie (C)

 POTM: Becky Easton

 Next up for Liverpool Ladies they welcome Doncaster Belles to Select Stadium next Saturday 14th March, 7pm kick off for their final pre-season friendly before beginning the campaign with a yet-to-be-drawn FA Cup tie on Sunday 22nd March.

 Over the next couple of weeks a number of Liverpool players will be involved in international action, you can follow the results with this blog here which will be updated as games are played.