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!

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