MATCH REPORT: Everton Ladies 0 – 2 Liverpool Ladies

 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.

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