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.

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