Liverpool Ladies fell to a second straight league defeat at Birmingham City earlier today, the Reds beaten by a Karen Carney penalty in the first half.
Matt Beard made just one change from the side that beat Everton Ladies midweek in the Continental Cup, Katie Zelem returning to the starting 11 following time away with England U19s and forming a midfield 3 with Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir. Up front Natasha Dowie led the line accompanied by Rosie White and Line Smorsgard; while in defence Liverpool reverted to a flat back 4 of Becky Easton, Gemma Bonner, Kate Longhurst and Martha Harris with Libby Stout in goal.
Liverpool have been hit hard by injury in recent weeks, with Fara Williams, Asisat Oshoala and Satara Murray all confirmed to be unavailable for up to 2 months. With Murray out, Longhurst has admirably stepped back into defence; the forward in her third season at the club playing in an entirely new position and the no.7 was called into action early in the first half, as Birmingham pressed high up the pitch and looked to put Liverpool under pressure, twice clearing from high balls sent into the 18-yard box.
The only goal of the game came in the 7th minute, the referee awarding the Blues a penalty after adjudging Martha Harris to have handled the ball just inside the area. England international and Birmingham captain Carney stepped up to send the spot kick home, Libby Stout unable to keep it out despite diving the right way.
Birmingham continued to probe down each wing, Melissa Lawley a stand out on the right while Carney attempted to attack from the left; Becky Easton proving tough to beat for the skipper, dispossessing her on several occasions.
Liverpool’s initial foray into the opposition area came after 10 minutes, Lucy Staniforth’s delivery from a set piece good and only just missing the run of Gemma Bonner at the back post, but their finest chances of the first half would come at the midway point.
First, Katrin Omarsdottir won the ball deep inside the Reds half and clipped it back to Bonner who played a pass forward to Harris making the run down the left wing. Harris’ cross was picked up by Line Smorsgard who tried to tee up Natasha Dowie but Birmingham’s defence crowded the no.9 out.
Minutes later Liverpool were once again quick to break after regaining possession, this time Longhurst winning the ball back in the Reds box and playing a quick one-two with Harris to run almost the entire length of the pitch – the eventual low cross collected by Becky Spencer in the Birmingham goal before Dowie could reach it.
Towards the end of the half, Birmingham once more began to look the team most likely to score; Zelem blocking Kirsty Linnet’s cross, Bonner clearing a long ball that was sent back in and punched away by Stout – who also denied Lawley, saving her low shot after a mazy run from the halfway line.
Half-time: Birmingham City Ladies 1 – 0 Liverpool Ladies
During the early stages of the second half, Birmingham spurned chances to go 2-0 up. Omarsdottir continuing to frustrate Carney – who shot wide after being put under pressure from the Icelandic. Remi Allen also sent a strike high and wide after picking up on a loose ball when Omarsdottir blocked Linnett’s cross.
Beard made a double substitution, introducing a tactical change as Ingrid Ryland and Ashley Hodson entered the fray in place of Lucy Staniforth and Line Smorsgard. Ryland’s entry seeing a change at the back as Longhurst moved into midfield, Easton to centre back with Ryland on the right.
Hodson had made a difference after coming on as a substitute in the midweek derby and almost impacted the scoreline here shortly after taking to the field; Bonner finding herself battling Linnett in the Blues half, holding the striker off well to get the ball forward to Rosie White at the edge of the box, White’s shot was blocked as far as Hodson who’s first time strike from a narrow angle went over the crossbar.
Up at the other end Stout produced a fantastic save from Jo Potter’s free kick, stretching to tip the set piece out for a corner, which went straight out for a goal kick.
Liverpool continued to work hard prising for an opening with Bonner leading the attack from the back but the Reds just couldn’t find a way to break the stubborn Birmingham defence despite Hodson linking well with Zelem and a further formation change to 3 at the back following the introduction of Corina Schroder in place of Kate Longhurst.
XI Stout, Easton, Bonner (C), Longhurst (Schroder), Harris, Omarsdottir, Zelem, Staniforth (Ryland), White, Smorsgard (Hodson), Dowie
POTM Gemma Bonner
The defeat leaves Liverpool 6th in the league table on 9 points, with 6 league games to play.
Liverpool return to WSL action on Saturday 8th August when they travel to top of the league Sunderland Ladies, before that they face Doncaster Belles away this Thursday 30th July in the Continental Cup.
Liverpool Ladies started their 2015 Continental Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Everton Ladies in front of a crowd of 1,073 supporters in Widnes.
Reds no.9 Natasha Dowie was on target twice, netting both goals either side of half-time, Dowie has now scored a total of 7 goals against her former club.
The injury struck Reds were without a number of key first team players in Fara Williams, Satara Murray and Asisat Oshoala – the ever-versatile Kate Longhurst moving alongside captain Gemma Bonner and Becky Easton in the centre of defence, with Mayumi Pacheco at left-wing-back and Martha Harris on the right.
Lucy Staniforth was handed her first start in a red shirt, alongside Katrin Omarsdottir in midfield, while Line Smorsgard made her first start in the second half of the season as part of an attacking trio that also contained Dowie and Rosie White. Libby Stout retained her position in goal.
Dowie gave Liverpool the lead in the opening minute, latching onto a back pass her first strike was blocked by Everton goalkeeper Kirstie Levell but Dowie regained possession, rounding the 18-year old keeper to tap the ball over the line from 6-yards out.
The Liverpool striker could have had a hat-trick in the opening 10 minutes, a well struck low drive only just palmed wide before a second was blocked by the defence – Smorsgard sending the rebound over the bar.
While Dowie was causing the Blues defence all kinds of problems, Lucy Staniforth was pulling the strings in midfield, as well as taking over set piece duties from Fara Williams, carrying the ball right through to the byline and cutting it back upfield to Maz Pacheco but her cross was cleared. Pacheco then shot wide after latching onto a loose ball following more good work from Staniforth on the left and moments later the midfielder was showing off her skills in the centre of the park – taking the ball down well and backheeling it to Omarsdottir.
The two then almost combined to set up Line Smorsgard, Omarsdottir – not to be outdone in the skills department – neatly looping Staniforth’s pass over the top of the Everton back line; the defence reacting quickly to prevent birthday girl Smorsgard from connecting.
Liverpool were almost punished for not taking their chances when Blues captain Michelle Hinnigan hit the post, an Amy Turner free kick was also blocked by the Reds wall before another strike took a deflection – leaving Libby Stout stranded but luckily for Liverpool bouncing the wrong side of the post.
Rosie White had the greatest chance to make it 2-0 before half-time; Martha Harris, working tirelessly on the wing, putting her through into the 18-yard box with just the keeper to beat, Levell doing well to get down and block the New Zealanders strike.
Half-time: Everton Ladies 0 – 1 Liverpool Ladies
Emerging unchanged in personnel for the second half, Liverpool appeared to switch to a flat back 4 with Kate Longhurst moving forward into midfield.
Despite the change, Pacheco continued to get forward, twice linking with Staniforth and kickstarting the Reds attack – the second of these leading to Longhurst shooting over the crossbar.
Liverpool had a couple of scares early in the second half – first former player Kelly Jones somehow skewing her shot wide after slipping through the defence, then Simone Magill’s cross whizzing across the 6-yard box – falling to Hinnigan who couldn’t find a way back in past Pacheco.
Everton were left to rue these missed opportunities when – only minutes after having a goal disallowed for offside – Natasha Dowie capitalised on yet another mix up in the Everton defence to volley home her second of the game.
Liverpool’s first substitution of the game came as Ashley Hodson replaced Smorsgard, Hodson immediately involved in the thick of the action – putting Levell under pressure after a good delivery from Pacheco. Hodson also made a couple of fine runs forward, very nearly setting up White after a mazy run in from the right but White was pulled back for offside.
The Reds were then forced into a second substitution as Gemma Bonner went down off the ball, Hannah Dale coming on for her – meaning Liverpool had 3 home grown players on the pitch, with one more on the bench in the form of 17-year old goalkeeper Rachel Darbyshire.
Bonner leaving the field meant Longhurst once more stepped back into defence, the versatile forward has now played in numerous positions across the field for Liverpool this season and is guaranteed to give her all no matter where she plays – seeing the game out solidly from the heart of the Reds defence – clearly an Everton cross with ease, shielding a forward out wide and then superbly carrying the ball forward, all the way to the opposition 18-yard box, passing to Staniforth who’s shot was deflected and then tapped over the line by Dowie – the score remaining 2-0 as the linesman once again flagged Dowie for offside.
Liverpool’s final substitution of the game seen Ingrid Ryland come on for the excellent Maz Pacheco, Ryland almost adding a 3rd goal in the final minute after the Reds were quick on the counter attack – her strike curling towards the top corner but wide.
On the 90th minute Everton made all 3 of their substitutes at once, with former Liverpool development left-back Megan Alexander making her first appearance against her former club.
Full-time: Everton Ladies 0 – 2 Liverpool Ladies
XI Stout, Bonner (C) (Dale), Easton, Longhurst, Harris, Pacheco (Ryland), Omarsdottir, Staniforth, Smorsgard (Hodson), White, Dowie
POTM Kate Longhurst
The Continental Cup’s first stage sees the 18 teams from the FA Women’s Super League 1 & 2 split into 3 regional based groups of 6. Each team plays each other once, with the top 2 from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals – along with the 2 best third placed sides. Manchester City Women are the current holders of the cup, after beating Arsenal Ladies 1-0 in last year’s final.
Liverpool’s attention turns back to the Women’s Super League on Sunday 26th July as they travel to Birmingham City Ladies in a 2pm kick-off.
Liverpool Ladies face Notts County Ladies on Saturday 18th July in their first home game since the Women’s World Cup.
After attendances across the league upon it’s return last weekend were boosted in the wake of England’s success at the World Cup in Canada, Liverpool will be hoping for their biggest crowd of the season, if not a record WSL home attendance, at Select Security Stadium in Widnes. The current record is held by the final day of the 2013 season when 2,135 watched the Reds lift the league trophy after beating Bristol Academy.
Tickets are available on the gate for the 2pm kick-off, priced at just £5 adults and £2.50 concessions.
Notably, both Fara Williams and Natasha Dowie making their 50th appearance for Liverpool.
Liverpool Ladies will return to action on Sunday, following the FA Women’s Super League mid-season break for the Women’s World Cup.
England’s unprecedented success has seen a spike in interest in the women’s game across the country – Liverpool’s Fara Williams featured on the front page of the Sunday Observer following her bronze medal winning penalty against Germany in the 3rd place play off.
Liverpool’s opponents this Sunday, Arsenal Ladies, have reported a spike in ticket sales – selling 5 times the amount online as of yesterday, than they would have usually. With tickets also available on the gate, Arsenal are expecting a record crowd in the 6pm kick off at Boreham Wood FC. Entry is priced at £6 adults, £3 concessions and tickets are slightly cheaper if you buy online in advance. The game will also be shown live on BT Sport.
|Fara Williams celebrates scoring v Germany|
Matt Beard has said this week that Fara Williams may not feature against Arsenal, having been one of England’s key players during their campaign and featuring in every game over the course of the tournament.
Liverpool supporters can however look forward to seeing new signing 22-year old striker Rosie White in action. The New Zealand international was announced yesterday, signing for the Reds from UCLA. White has scored 14 goals in 71 appearances for New Zealand, most recently featuring for her country at the World Cup – finishing bottom of Group A after 2 draws and a defeat.
Lucy Staniforth will be like a new signing, the midfielder made a number of substitute appearances for the first team before the break while also building up her fitness with the development squad; Katrin Omarsdottir and Ashley Hodson should also return to the first team set up following injury.
The Reds will be without Nicole Rolser, who recently departed for Bayern Munich, Katie Zelem, away with England U19s in Israel, and goalkeeper Danielle Gibbons who is recovering from surgery to remove a benign brain tumour.
Results were not going the clubs way in the first half of the season, defeat away to Birmingham in the FA Cup was followed by an opening day league defeat to newcomers Sunderland Ladies.
Switching to the 4-1-4-1 formation, with Becky Easton as a holding midfielder, Martha Harris making a mark on the right back position and Fara Williams playing higher up the pitch, begun to produce better performances – Asisat Oshoala providing the flair from right wing, scoring one and assisting Williams in a 2-1 league win against Birmingham. Liverpool were then unlucky to fall to a 1-0 loss away at Chelsea before beating Manchester City the following week. In the final game before the break, Notts County recorded a 1-0 victory over Liverpool, despite the Reds, arguably, again being the better team on the afternoon.
The change in personnel, with Rolser gone, Staniforth, Omarsdottir and Hodson returning and White coming in, could again see a change in formation. Gemma Bonner was voted @LFCladiesfans Player of the Season at the midway stage and the Liverpool captain will again be a key player during the second half of the campaign.
|Lucy Staniforth can be a key player in the Liverpool midfield|
Liverpool’s hosts for the evening Arsenal Ladies are 6 points ahead in the league table, with a game in hand. The Gunners sit in 2nd place, 2 points behind leaders Chelsea Ladies. New manager Pedro Martinez Losa has overseen a turnaround in fortunes for the side after a disappointing campaign last year.
Losa has made a trio of new signings over the break – Spanish midfielder Marta Corredera, Dutch goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaa arriving along with Dominique Janssen, a defender also from Holland.
Arsenal’s outgoings include Caroline Weir to Bristol Academy, Siobhan Chamberlain on loan to Notts County and Lianne Sanderson to an as yet unnamed side. Kelly Smith will also be missing through injury, with Jordan Nobbs also a doubt.
To give us the point-of-view from Arsenal Ladies, long-time supporter Nic Stonebridge answered a few questions;
Q Arsenal Ladies sit 2nd in the league and remain unbeaten ahead of Liverpool’s visit, a contrast to last season’s start of 4 defeats in the opening 6 games – with largely the same group of players. Is this the effect new manager Pedro Martinez Losa has had on the club, what has he changed?
A The club went through a bad spell at the beginning of last season which showed on the pitch. I think Losa coming in brought some much needed stability to the players. He also was aware he wanted an attractive form of football to be player, very much the Arsenal way.
Q Losa has made a number of new Spanish signings, how have winter arrivals Natalia Pablos Sanchez and Vicky Losada fitted in with their team mates?
A The Spanish players has fitted in well at Arsenal. Natalia coming from Bristol Academy we knew how good a player she is and with 3 goals already she looks to be continuing that form.
Losada too fits the Losa way of playing. He knows what she is capable of having coached her at Western New York Flash and he has also just brought in Spanish midfielder Marta Corredera so we should see a good link up between the 3 this season.
Q Who are your key players Liverpool supporters can look out for on Sunday?
A Look out for Leah Williamson and Carla Humphrey, Leah is obviously known for that pressure penalty for England in the under 19 Euros. Leah’s mate Carla is a very talented player too, she made great strides in the first half of the season and I expect them both to make an impact if player. Also, if Chioma Ubogagu continues where she left off last season she could make life difficult for Liverpool!
Q England’s success at the World Cup has drawn a spotlight to the women’s game, do you think we will see an increase in support for clubs in the Women’s Super League?
A I really hope so! The World Cup had great viewing figures! If that could be transferred to attendance in the FAWSL that would be amazing. People now see the talent there is in the women’s game, plus it’s cheap to take the family – a great day out!
Q What is your score prediction for the game?
A I don’t usually do score predictions, but as you asked I expect a close game but I think the Gunners will come out 2-1 winners… in front of a big crowd (hopefully)!