MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 2 – 1 Manchester City

 Liverpool Ladies picked up an important 3 points earlier today, beating Manchester City 2-1 with goals either side of half-time from Asisat Oshoala and Line Smorsgard.

 Matt Beard named an unchanged 11 from the side that lost away to Chelsea Ladies last weekend; Libby Stout starting in goal, captain Gemma Bonner and Satara Murray ahead of her in central defence, Martha Harris at right-back and Corina Schroder on the left.

 Becky Easton remained stationed in front of the back 4 with Kate Longhurst partnering Fara Williams in midfield, Oshoala out on the right wing, Smorsgard on the left and Natasha Dowie up front.

 Manchester City made a number of signings during the winter off-season, Liverpool’s Lucy Bronze making the switch to the Blues along with Bristol Academy’s Natasha Harding, Sarah Wiltshire from Yeovil and Nikita Parris on loan from Everton Ladies. 3 of those new signings started here, Wiltshire on the bench along with City club captain Steph Houghton and no.1 Karen Bardsley, who reportedly was injured despite being a named substitute.

 The Reds have enjoyed an upturn in form since beginning the year with back-to-back defeats, the change in formation with Becky Easton deployed in defensive midfield making a huge difference.

 City got the game underway, immediately looking to press the Liverpool defence high up the pitch but Satara Murray twice seeing the ball back to Libby Stout against the danger of a lurking Nikita Parris.

 The first chance of the game came when a foul was given against Asisat Oshoala, the visitors sending a low free kick into the arms of Stout.

 Both teams were playing at a high tempo, with Liverpool never really allowing their visitors to settle and dominating the possession. The home team were unlucky with an early offside decision, a well-timed Natasha Dowie run was inexplicably flagged by the linesman with television replays proving the striker was indeed onside.

 The Reds didn’t wait long to open the scoring, after Fara Williams’ free kick was deflected out for a corner, Williams stepped up again to take the set piece; the corner swinging to the back post, through the arms of City goalkeeper Alex Brooks, and being prodded over the line by Oshoala. 9 minutes in and Liverpool led 1-0.

 Liverpool continued to attack and defend well for the rest of the first half, Corina Schroder blocking a Natasha Harding cross and Kate Longhurst effectively dealing with Lucy Bronze’s forward runs from right-back.

 Oshoala, brimming with confidence, tried a series of charging runs and flicks over defenders; one particular run all the way to the touchline seen the Nigerian star attempt to cut a low ball up to Dowie. The cross was intercepted, falling to Line Smorsgard who teed up Martha Harris but Harris’ cross was a touch heavy.

 Gemma Bonner and Satara Murray’s partnership at the back continues to grow, the pair combining to close down Parris at the edge of the area before she could unleash a strike and also dealing well with both Parris and Toni Duggan throughout the 90 minutes.

 As the first half drew to a close, Natasha Dowie had a shot blocked just minutes after excellently keeping the ball in play at the touchline with the Reds probing in and around the 18-yard box but unable to find the final killer pass to produce a second goal before the half-time whistle went.

 Half-time: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Manchester City Women

 The second half continued much the same way as the first, Parris hitting the side netting with the first attack of the half with Libby Stout getting a touch. Oshoala cleared from the ensuing corner, picking the ball up again on the halfway line and being fouled 30 yards out – Williams stood up to take the free kick but sent it too close to the keeper.

 Becky Easton was once again a brick wall in the second half, proving the perfect cover for the commanding Gemma Bonner and twice standing strong at the edge of the area to halt the City attack.

 Man City drew level after Murray was judged to have fouled Natasha Harding, the free kick headed past Stout by Parris for the equaliser. City almost took the lead seconds later when Duggan chested the ball into the path of Izzy Christianson but her strike blazed over the crossbar.

 The lead was to be extremely short lived however, the next Liverpool attack producing the games winning goal. Martha Harris’ throw reached Natasha Dowie in the penalty area, Dowie knocking the ball to Asisat Oshoala and her first time cross headed over the line by Line Smorsgard. The Norwegian scoring her first goal for Liverpool and almost doubling her tally minutes later before being replaced by Nicole Rolser.

 Ingrid Ryland was also a second half substitute, along with Katrin Omarsdottir making her first appearance this year. They replaced Corina Schroder and Kate Longhurst respectively.

 Liverpool had a number of chances to extend their lead, a Fara Williams free kick being spilled by Brooks but the keeper recovered well to block both Dowie and Oshoala’s rebound attempts.

 Oshoala also continues to build a good on-pitch relationship with Fara Williams; the England midfielder looping the ball to Oshoala, who had her back to goal and headed back to the feet of Williams. The final strike was held onto by Brooks.

 Natasha Dowie had the final clear cut chance of the evening for Liverpool, after good work on the left wing and cutting in to shoot with her right foot. The keeper got across to save and the game finished 2-1 to Liverpool.

 The 3 points lifts the Reds to 3rd place in the league and they now have 2 weeks to prepare for the final game before the Women’s Super League breaks for the World Cup, with a trip away to Notts County on Sunday 10th May.

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

 POTM Gemma Bonner

 Liverpool Ladies Development Squad were today beaten 4-2 AET by Birmingham City in a replay of the League Cup semi-final, a full match report will be on the blog tomorrow evening. The development squad are next in action on Sunday 3rd May, taking on Aston Villa in the league, 2pm KO, Select Stadium, Widnes.

MATCH REPORT: Chelsea Ladies 1 – 0 Liverpool Ladies

 Despite giving their all throughout the 90 minutes, Liverpool Ladies fell to a 1-0 defeat away at Chelsea Ladies earlier today.

 PFA Player of the Year nominee Eni Aluko scored the only goal of the game after audaciously chipping the ball over Libby Stout; Fara Williams had the chance to equalise for the Reds after Aluko handballed in the penalty area, but her spot kick hit the post.

Liverpool after the final whistle

 Liverpool were unchanged from the side that beat Birmingham City at the beginning of the month, Libby Stout in goal behind a back four of Martha Harris, captain Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray and Corina Schroder from right to left.

 Becky Easton retained her place in defensive midfield, Kate Longhurst partnering Fara Williams in the centre of midfield just ahead of her, Asisat Oshoala on the right, Line Smorsgard on the left and Natasha Dowie up front.

 The Reds had just 4 substitutes on the bench, Katrin Omarsdottir with the Development Squad back on Merseyside and scoring in their 8-0 win. Nicole Rolser was also missing from the match day squad, despite having travelled with the team.

 During an end-to-end first half Liverpool defended well against a Chelsea side that had scored 14 goals in their previous 4 games. The home side twice attempted to mount attacks down the right wing, Corina Schroder and Line Smorsgard combining well with Smorsgard in particular impressing to get back and cover.

 Martha Harris also dealt well with an early Gemma Davison run, getting across to halt the former Liverpool winger in her tracks. As a whole Liverpool dealt well with the threat of Davison, who has had an excellent start to her career at Chelsea, breaking up the partnership between her and Eni Aluko proved crucial to holding the Blues off during the early stages of the game.

 Chelsea’s Player of the Year Ji So-Yun was also dealt with effectively by Gemma Bonner, the Reds captain did brilliantly to clear from the South Korean after she had beaten both Satara Murray and Libby Stout. Late in the first half Bonner also made a well-timed sliding challenge in the box, again to deny So-Yun the opportunity to shoot.

Gemma Bonner & Ji So-Yun

 Liverpool arguably were the better side of the first half, with the better chances and no fewer than 5 corners. Fara Williams’ set pieces each heading towards the back post with Bonner on the end of 2; one header over the crossbar and the other headed goal-wards but the referee had blown for a foul in the box.

 Asisat Oshoala once again impressed in a Red shirt, making a number of forward runs, beating the defender on one but Chelsea goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl intercepting. Oshoala also did well early on, winning a throw in by the corner flag from which Natasha Dowie could earn a corner, and on the stroke of half-time almost broke through the Chelsea defence again only to be flagged for offside in what must have been an extremely tight decision, it certainly looked on from the sidelines.

 As strong as Martha Harris has been in defence as of late, the young full-back has also been getting into good positions further up the pitch. A lovely cutting ball midway through the first half skimming past everyone in the 18-yard box and unfortunate that there was no red shirt to connect .

 Half-time: Chelsea Ladies 0 – 0 Liverpool Ladies

 With the teams back out for the second half, the game continued much the same way as the first 45. A Chelsea strike going wide of the post before minutes later Gemma Bonner’s free kick was almost flicked into the path of Line Smorsgard by Natasha Dowie.

 Dowie also made a great run down the left wing, passing the ball around the right-back, picking it up and cutting a pass back to Kate Longhurst. Longhurst hit a first time pass quickly towards Dowie, but the Liverpool no.9 couldn’t get back to pick it up.

 The home side then took the lead; building up the play patiently passing the ball around in midfield before Laura Coombs set up Eni Aluko to chip the ball over Libby Stout. Aluko looked to have injured herself celebrating, remaining off the pitch for several minutes afterwards.

Becky Easton

 Liverpool almost replied immediately, Asisat Oshoala on yet another strong run into the 18-yard box; Oshoala’s run was matched the whole way by Chelsea defender Claire Rafferty, forcing the Nigerian to shoot from a tight angle and the strike to go inches wide.

 The visitors began to enjoy their most dominant spell of the game, Gemma Bonner winning the ball from Ji So-Yun midway in the Liverpool half and playing a long ball forwards for Natasha Dowie.

 Oshoala won the Reds their 6th corner of the game, this being cleared but only as far as Martha Harris. Harris knocked the ball back to Gemma Bonner before Liverpool were awarded a free kick 25 yards out.

 Fara Williams stepped up, her strike blocked by the hand of Eni Aluko with the referee correctly pointing to the penalty spot. Williams sent Lindahl the wrong way but the spot kick bounced back off the post and Chelsea were able to clear their lines.

 Liverpool refused to give up the search for an equaliser, Williams and Oshoala seem to be building a good understanding on the pitch; with the latter almost picking out the former with a cross moments before Williams through ball to Oshoala resulted in an collision on the edge of the box.

 Matt Beard used all 3 of his substitutes during the final 15 minutes, Ingrid Ryland coming on for Corina Schroder meaning Martha Harris switched to left back. Lucy Staniforth also replaced Line Smorsgard and Kate Longhurst came off for Katie Zelem.

 In the closing stages Chelsea tried their best to keep the ball at the corner flag, with Liverpool continuing to press and throwing everybody forward – a Dowie cross almost reaching Harris and Staniforth also almost finding Harris after a lovely turn and flick, keeping the ball in and playing it short to the full-back.

 As Gemma Bonner tried to kick start one final Liverpool attack, Gemma Davison closed her down, the ball going out of play and the referee blowing for full-time.

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

 POTM Gemma Bonner

 Liverpool will feel hard done by with the defeat, and rightly so, the Reds deserved at least a point from the hard fought battle. Next up Liverpool face Manchester City, beaten 1-0 by Arsenal Ladies today with stand-in captain Jill Scott sent off, next Sunday 26th April. 6pm kick off, Select Security Stadium, Widnes.

 Also next Sunday, the Development Squad will face Birmingham City, 2pm at Rainhill High School in a replay of last week’s Development Cup semi-final. The tie needing to be replayed due to a refereeing error.

 Thanks to Emma Clarke for the pictures used in this blog!

MATCH PREVIEW: Chelsea Ladies v Liverpool Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies face Chelsea Ladies tomorrow afternoon at Staines Town FC in a 2pm kick off for their first away game of the 2015 FAWSL campaign.

 The Reds have won one and lost one of their opening games, which places them in mid-table and 3 points behind their hosts Chelsea who sit top after winning 2 out of 2.

 It has been over 2 weeks since Liverpool were last in action, the 2-1 home win over Birmingham City showcasing the talents of new signing Asisat Oshoala who scored a well-taken volley to open the scoring and then set up the second.

 Matt Beard had shaken things up in his starting 11 with Becky Easton playing in defensive midfield, this move gave Liverpool the muscle in midfield they had been missing in previous games and the Reds looked altogether a more solid unit, constantly pressing and frustrating Birmingham.

 Liverpool are almost close to having a full-strength team, Ashley Hodson is currently the only first team player missing through injury having had a recent knee injury. Hodson is expected to be back for the second half of the season while both Katrin Omarsdottir and Lucy Staniforth completed 45 minutes each of game time in the Development Squad’s recent fixtures.

 This away tie has proved to be a tough one for Liverpool over the last 2 seasons, a hard-earned draw last season with half the first team injured and losing 2-1 the previous year. At home however Liverpool have picked up 3 points in 2013 and 2014, last season beating Chelsea to the league title on goal difference.

 It seems almost frivolous to talk about the game as a potential title decider, yet with both sides aiming for the league title again it is certainly a 6-pointer – as last season proves every point and every goal could matter come the end of the campaign.

 To get the view from the Blues, I spoke to my good friend Hannah who runs Chelsea Ladies Fans. Follow CLFCfans on Twitter here & check out the blog here!

 Q Chelsea Ladies are the only team in the league to have won both their opening matches, does this give them a head start in the title race?

 A Definitely! When the league is only 14 games long, every point is invaluable (as we can see from last year being so close)! It’s great to have a 2 point lead already, after just 2 games. We know there’s a long, long way until the end of the season and (literally) anything could happen, but it’s just to be leading rather than chasing from the off.

 Q There has also been a couple of good results in the Cup (Chelsea will face Manchester City in The FA Cup semi-final on Monday 4th May), what has been most crucial to the Blues success so far in 2015?

 A Last year’s heartbreak has clearly had an effect on the team. We’ve approached each game with just 10% more grit and, added to the talent we’ve already got, it’s working really well for us. Throw in the experience of Niamh Fahey, Gemma Davison and Hedvig Lindahl, we look the strongest we ever have.

 Q Liverpool supporters will be more than familiar with Gemma Davison after a successful season on Merseyside last year and has been in fine goalscoring form since her winter transfer, aside from her who are your key players?

 A Obviously I can’t overlook Eni Aluko or Ji So Yun – two great attacking players recently nominated for PFA Player of the Year – but I think a player to look out for is Millie Bright. She’s only 21 and new to the squad, but is an absolute tank and has made the centre back position her own. She’s mature beyond her years and is one to watch going forward as well as today!

 Q Finally, what is your score prediction for the game?

 A 3-1 to the Blues!

 Needless to say I disagree with this prediction and am going with 2-1 to Liverpool! Tomorrow promises to be a great tie between two talented and improved sides, tickets are £5 on the gate for adults, £3 concessions.

 For any Liverpool supporters travelling to watch the game, leave plenty of time for travel as there is some other game going on in London around the same time which may have a few people headed the same way!

MATCH REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 2 – 1 Birmingham City

 After back-to-back defeats in March, Liverpool Ladies returned to winning ways earlier this evening with a convincing 2-1 win over Birmingham City.

 The first 3 points of the Reds season were confirmed with goals either side of half-time from the excellent Asisat Oshoala and Fara Williams, Birmingham pulled a goal back through Aoife Mannion but Liverpool saw out the win with ease.

 Matt Beard made 3 changes to his starting line-up from last week’s defeat to Sunderland, Becky Easton returning to the starting 11 but in an unfamiliar position; playing defensive midfield in front of the back 4 of Martha Harris, Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner and Corina Schroder.

 Liverpool looked to be playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Asisat Oshoala and Line Smorsgard switching between the right and left wings and Kate Longhurst and Fara Williams in the middle behind Natasha Dowie.

 From kick off the changes to the team and formation looked positive, Martha Harris had played at left wing back the preview week and found her opportunities getting forward limited. Tonight that was not the case as she constantly marauded up the pitch from right back, getting involved with the Liverpool attack. The first chance of the game coming after just 3 minutes with Harris passing to Kate Longhurst at the corner of the 18-yard box, Longhurst had her back to goal but set the ball into the path of Fara Williams who’s first time strike was blocked.

 The introduction of Becky Easton in the middle was also a great addition to the midfield, in the previous game against Birmingham in The FA Cup the Blues midfield had swamped the centre of the park, making it difficult for Liverpool to get their passing game going. With Easton clearing up in front of the back 4 and Williams and Longhurst ahead of her this was not the case during the league tie, the trio first to every ball and winning possession at each turn.

 One Birmingham player who proved to be frustrated by the Reds control of the midfield was Remi Allen, Allen had netted a penalty during her sides 3-1 cup win last weekend but seemed to be trying her hardest to take out as many Liverpool players as she could during this evenings game. Easton was the first player to be on the receiving end of this, cutting her face on the turf pitch in the process. During the rest of the game Allen gave away a number of free kicks, somehow avoiding picking up a yellow card until the 90th minute for a challenge on Kate Longhurst – more on that later.

 Liverpool looked better all round, creating chances and defending well. Fara Williams looked to be relishing her advanced position on the pitch, making runs and pinging the ball about, almost setting Natasha Dowie through on goal with an attempted lob over the back 4 – the defender making it back in time. Williams also seen a free kick from 25-yards out go narrowly wide of the post.

 All of Liverpool’s attacking play seemed to go through Asisat Oshoala, the winter signing wreaking havoc in the Birmingham half, winning the ball back, making mazy runs and tidy flicks onto her fellow attacking players. The aforementioned Williams free kick was won after Oshoala had ran practically from the halfway line to the edge of the box, fouled before she could get a shot in. The Nigerian striker also seen a strike go wide after being set up by Natasha Dowie and was part of some nice build up play from the Reds which seen Line Smorsgard eventually dispossessed in the 6-yard box.

 The breakthrough almost came on 30 minutes, Kate Longhurst with a great strike however seeing the goal ruled out for an apparent foul in the build up. It was the second time in successive seasons that Longhurst has unfortunately had a goal disallowed, her disallowed strike against Manchester City in 2014’s opening game still questionable. Shortly after Birmingham almost took the lead themselves, Libby Stout off her line to take a free kick 30 yards from goal, this falling to Jo Potter who attempted to score from the halfway line – the shot going wide.

 Oshoala and Liverpool were rewarded for their efforts right on the stroke of half-time, Gemma Bonner in an advanced position on the right wing and swinging a cross in that landed at the feet of Oshoala coming in at the 6-yard box. Oshoala volleyed the ball with perfect execution to put Liverpool in the lead and for her first goal in the FA Women’s Super League.

 HT Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Birmingham City Ladies

 Both sides emerged from the break unchanged in personnel, Birmingham however seemingly adopting a new sense of urgency and sending long balls into the Liverpool half. Twice Libby Stout was called into action, coming out in a crowded penalty area to punch away –  both times finding Line Smorsgard lurking to attempt to break.

 When Kate Longhurst was fouled on the halfway line by, surprise, Remi Allen, Gemma Bonner’s free kick was almost converted by Smorsgard. With her shot blocked the ball met Oshoala inside the box, not falling to her kindly leading to Birmingham being able to clear their lines. Smorsgard looked her sharpest yet for the Reds and was replaced with 20 minutes to play by Nicole Rolser.

 Shortly after the substitution, Oshoala found herself in space on the right of the area, crossing the ball low into the oncoming Fara Williams who smashed the ball into the back of the net to double Liverpool’s lead. The goal is Williams’ 3rd against Birmingham in the last 3 league meetings between the sides, Williams netted the equaliser in the 1-1 here last season and then scored an audacious winner in the away tie in 2014 – chipping the keeper from the halfway line.

 2-0 up and pressing for more goals, Williams swung a free kick into the box from the right. Her initial cross blocked but back in towards the head of Gemma Bonner for Becky Spencer to pull off a good save, diving well to her left to deny the Liverpool captain.

 Birmingham pulled a goal back after Martha Harris and Libby Stout both thought to have seen the ball safely out for a goal kick, the referee gave nothing and Blues centre back Aoife Mannion impressively scored from a tight angle to make the score 2-1.

 Lucy Staniforth came on late in the second half for goal scorer and creator Asisat Oshoala, Staniforth with a lovely turn away from a Birmingham midfielder, playing the ball forward to Nicole Rolser who herself turned to pass to Natasha Dowie but the Reds no.9 was crowded out on the edge of the box and Birmingham cleared.

 What should have been a great night for Liverpool was marred slightly by an incident in the 90th minute, Kate Longhurst being knocked unconscious by a challenge from Remi Allen and requiring extended treatment on the pitch. Hannah Dale came on for the injured Longhurst, who needed to be stretchered off. Longhurst has since confirmed on twitter that she is “absolutely fine, just had a nap on the pitch and got a little bump.”

 XI Stout, Harris, Murray, Bonner (C), Schroder, Easton, Smorsgard, Williams, Longhurst, Oshoala, Dowie

 POTM Asisat Oshoala

 The season now takes a short break while international games take place, next Thurday Gemma Bonner, Nastasha Dowie and Fara Williams will each be involved in England’s final friendly before this summer’s World Cup. The friendly against China is at Manchester City’s 7,000 seater Academy Stadium and tickets are still available. Wales also have two games against Slovakia in Bangor, Reds defender Emilie Revitt could be in line to make her first senior appearance for her country.

 Liverpool Ladies are next in action on Sunday 19th April with an away trip to Chelsea Ladies FC.