MATCH REPORT: Arsenal Ladies 1 – 3 Liverpool Ladies

 Liverpool Ladies returned to FA Women’s Super League action with a convincing 3-1 win away at previously unbeaten Arsenal Ladies.
 World Cup bronze medallist Fara Williams opened the scoring with a stunning long-range effort, Williams then provided an assist via a corner for Becky Easton to score her first goal for the club. 
 Arsenal pulled a goal back in the second half with substitute Natalia Pablos Sanchez expertly chipping Libby Stout, before Asisat Oshoala sealed the Liverpool win with a lob of her own over Emma Byrne.
 Danielle Gibbons, Corina Schroder, Ingrid Ryland and Lucy Staniforth were all sidelined for the Reds – the latter merely a precaution – while Katie Zelem is away on international duty with England U19s.
 Making a welcome return to the starting 11 was Katrin Omarsdottir, the Icelandic midfielder making her first start of the season, and Ashley Hodson, returning following a knee injury picked up in pre-season.
 Liverpool lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Natasha Dowie up front with Ashley Hodson, Kate Longhurst and Asisat Oshoala behind her. Omarsdottir partnered Fara Williams in midfield ahead of the back four of, from left to right, Martha Harris, captain Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray and Becky Easton – with Libby Stout in goal.

 Notably, both Fara Williams and Natasha Dowie making their 50th appearance for Liverpool.

Liverpool kicked the game off and immediately put their hosts on the back foot, pressing well and dominating the midfield – the return of Omarsdottir alongside Williams particularly significant.
 The team were also creating chances, almost scoring straight away and then Asisat Oshoala sending a shot wide of the post – perhaps put off by Arsenal defender Casey Stoney who had matched her into the box.
 2,016 supporters packed out Arsenal’s Boreham Wood ground, with a great many of those wearing the red of Liverpool.
 The travelling supporters didn’t have to wait long for a goal, Natasha Dowie brilliantly holding the ball with her back to go and flicking it into the path of Fara Williams, Williams wonderfully guided the ball past the helpless Emma Byrne in the Arsenal goal to put Liverpool 1-0 up.
Soon it was 2, Williams involved again – this time through a corner – swinging the set piece inside the 6-yard box for Becky Easton to nod the ball over the line from a yard out.
 At the other end of the pitch, Satara Murray produced her best performance for the club since her winter transfer. Tasked with handling Danielle Carter, Carter finding no way past the Reds defender – at one point in the first half, Carter found herself unable to turn midway in the Liverpool half with Murray coming from behind and dispossessing her. Later in the first half Murray also halted Carter at the edge of the box with a well-timed challenge and then prevented Alex Scott cutting the ball back up the box.
 Williams was a great presence in the midfield for Liverpool, having played in each of England’s World Cup games and only training back with the team for the first time on Thursday – 2 more of the midfielders set pieces were almost converted, Gemma Bonner narrowly missing a header at the back post for one and then Byrne coming out amongst a sea of bodies to claim another.
In the same game last season Liverpool no.1 Libby Stout produced her performance of the season in the 3-3 draw with a number of outstanding saves, it must be something about this ground as the American was excellent once again – denying Carla Humphrey in added time at the end of the first half, minutes after reacting quickly to an Arsenal corner that had bounced awkwardly before reaching her.
 Stout was helped no doubt by the defence in front of her, Gemma Bonner reliable as ever alongside Murray, with Kate Longhurst and Katrin Omarsdottir also dropping deep at points to snuff out any Arsenal attack.

HALF-TIME: ARSENAL LADIES 0 – 2 LIVERPOOL LADIES
 Both sides made substitutions at the midway point with New Zealand international Rosie White making her Liverpool debut after signing this week, White replacing Omarsdottir – with Longhurst moving back to partner Williams in midfield, White playing behind Natasha Dowie in-between Asisat Oshoala and Ashley Hodson. Arsenal’s Natalia Pablos Sanchez also took to the pitch in place of Jade Bailey.
 Liverpool continued to create chance after chance in the second half, Ashley Hodson tried her luck from outside the box – the strike looking to be going wide but Byrne taking no chance – Kate Longhurst had a rocket of a shot blocked by Alex Scott and newcomer Rosie White receiving the ball well on the right wing with a neat first touch, White brought the ball around onto her left foot but her effort went over the crossbar.
 Although not on the score sheet, Natasha Dowie led the line well once more for the Reds, holding the ball well and causing the Arsenal defence, in particular Casey Stoney, all kinds of problems getting in and around them.
 Arsenal reduced the deficit to 2-1 when substitute Natalia deftly chipped the ball over Libby Stout with the inside of her foot after connecting with a long ball forward, Liverpool felt the Gunners no.7 was offside.
 Liverpool’s second substitution of the game came as 16-year old Mayumi Pacheco came on for Fara Williams – Williams receiving a great reception from the home supporters as she was applauded off the pitch. Pacheco made her first team debut back in April, becoming the youngest player in the club’s history and continues to make great strides in her development – post-match it was great to see her in-demand amongst fans of both clubs as she signed autographs.
 Shortly before the 90 minutes were up, Arsenal had a free kick in a dangerous position 25 yards out – unfortunately for them this was sent straight into the arms of Libby Stout, allowing Liverpool to counter and Asisat Oshoala to score her 3rd goal of the season, lobbing the ball over Emma Byrne.
 Line Smorsgard was the last of the Liverpool substitutions, coming on for goal scorer Asisat Oshoala with minutes left on the clock.
FULL-TIME: ARSENAL LADIES 1 – 3 LIVERPOOL LADIES

LIVERPOOL XI:Stout, Easton, Bonner ©, Murray, Harris, Omarsdottir (White), Williams (Pacheco), Oshoala (Smorsgard), Longhurst, Hodson, Dowie
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Fara Williams
PHOTO – Ian Mok
A very important 3 points picked up on the road for Liverpool Ladies, the result leaves them 5th in the table but just 3 points behind Arsenal with a game in hand. The Reds take on 4thplaced Notts County, 2 points above them, next Saturday 18th July at home in a 2pm kick-off.
Grounds around the country reported a rise in attendance following the success of the England side at the World Cup, hopefully next weekend Liverpool too can benefit from the surge in popularity – tickets on the gate cost just £5 for adults and £3 concessions, hope to see you there!
While we were without Liverpool Ladies for the mid-season break, I took a trip across the pond where I watched Western New York Flash take on Seattle Reign in the NWSL. Read my match report from the 1-1 draw here, including a brief history on the club and the story of their season so far for those unfamiliar with them!

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