Nastasha Dowie was on the score sheet once again on Wednesday evening as Liverpool Ladies booked their place in the Continental Cup quarter-finals, beating Sunderland Ladies 2-0 in Widnes. Dowie also provided the assist for Katrin Omarsdottir’s 90th minute strike to seal the victory for the Reds.
Liverpool’s impressive defensive back line remained unchanged, Libby Stout in goal behind Martha Harris, Gemma Bonner, Becky Easton and Mayumi Pacheco – recording their fourth straight clean sheet of the competition. In midfield Omarsdottir came in for Lucy Staniforth, who was sitting this one out through illness, alongside Katie Zelem and Kate Longhurst with Rosie White, Ashley Hodson and Dowie up front.
The Reds have enjoyed an upturn in form recently and from the opening whistle dominated their visitors, who were not helped by being forced into an early substitution after Vicky Williams collided with her own player and was replaced by Vicky Greenwell.
Dowie has scored in each of Liverpool’s cup wins so far and was involved in the thick of the action once more; cleverly flicking Harris’ throw to the feet of Zelem, whose low drive from just inside the area was collected at the near post by Hilde Gunn Olsen in the Sunderland goal. The no.9 was then the target for Harris’ probing ball into the 6-yard box, Olsen stretching to tip the ball away minutes before Dowie would head narrowly wide from Bonner’s pinpoint forward pass – this after Pacheco’s cross had been cleared.
Liverpool continued to pile on the pressure, pressing through the excellent work rate of Longhurst and Hodson and passing the ball around well, never allowing the frustration of being unable to break Sunderland down affect their play; the Reds were also quick on the counter attack, Zelem and White combining, with the latter sending a through ball straight past the centre backs and Zelem chasing but Olsen was wise to the danger and came off her line to halt the run.
With the score tied at 0-0 despite a high amount of chances for the home side, Sunderland’s Beth Mead appeared to get around the back of the Liverpool defence. Poised to shoot on the 18-yard box, Easton swooped in with a feracious block to deny Mead and send the ball out for a corner – which came to nothing.
The game somehow remained goalless at half-time despite Dowie hitting the crossbar, White seeing her rebound strike from Zelem’s blocked header cleared off the line and Omarsdottir having a free kick deflected by the wall.
Sunderland’s chances were few and far between during the first 45 minutes, and defeat here would end their hopes of finishing in the top 2 of the Continental Cup group and automatic qualification for the quarter-finals. So it was no surprise to see them coming out fighting during the second half.
The introduction of Abbey Joice early in the half gave the Black Cats more of an attacking edge, however twice as Joice squared the ball in towards Brooke Chaplen the former Everton midfielder could only send her shots over the crossbar. Mead also continued to be denied, first by Bonner who blocked a shot and then by Harris who put an end to her run down the left wing and forced Sunderland to retreat.
As the Liverpool defence stood strong, Dowie and White together won a corner, the resulting set piece swung in by White – who had taken over duties from the sidelined Staniforth – and Dowie heading over the line from 2 yards out to give the Reds a deserved 1-0 lead.
Easton produced another of her now classic sliding tackles to prevent Sarah McFadden continuing her run, while Bonner continually tidied up at the back – stopping Chaplen’s low ball all too easily. Stout was also twice called into action, first to collect Rachel Furness’ tricky low strike and then expertly tipping Mead’s goal bound effort over the crossbar.
With the game entering the final few minutes, Liverpool won another corner which White once again stepped up to take; Dowie had positioned herself parallel to the 18-yard box and upon receiving the ball short from White, played a one-two with Bonner before crossing to Omarsdottir at the back post who could make no mistakes smashing the ball pas Olsen to secure the 3 points and the quarter-final spot for the Reds ahead of their final group fixture away at Manchester City on Sunday.
Liverpool XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Easton, Pacheco, Omarsdottir, Longhurst (Murray), Zelem (Smorsgard), Hodson (Ryland), White, Dowie
POTM Natasha Dowie
Natasha Dowie scored a goal in each half as Liverpool Ladies secured an important 3 points with a 2-0 victory over Bristol Academy in Widnes on Saturday night.
The brace from the in-form no.9 lifts the Reds to 13 points, leaving them 6th in the league and just 7 from the top of the table.
Both Dowie and Rosie White returned to the starting 11 after their game-changing substitute appearances against Durham WFC last weekend; they were joined by Ashley Hodson and Kate Longhurst in attack, with Lucy Staniforth partnering Katie Zelem in midfield in front of an unchanged back 4 of Martha Harris, Gemma Bonner, Becky Easton and Mayumi Pacheco; Libby Stout in goal.
492 supporters were in attendance to watch a cagey opening from the two teams, early probes forward from Bristol were stopped by Stout and an excellent block from Easton to deny Jade Boho-Sayo a shot on goal. Sophie Ingle also fired over for the visitors after Bonner had headed away a set piece.
At the other end of the pitch, Staniforth had a free kick punched away from the bottom corner while White’s pass to Dowie in the final third was intercepted by Dutch defender Marje Brummel and Longhurst was pulled back for offside after being set through by Zelem.
Prior to today Dowie had scored 5 goals in 5 games and was once again on the scoresheet midway through the first half; Hodson, along with Dowie, had made a well-timed run to pick up Staniforth’s looping ball over the top, the young forward seen her shot from a tight angle tipped away by Mary Earps but Dowie was on hand at the back post to tap the ball over the line and put Liverpool ahead.
The remainder of the first half played out the same way as the opening 15 minutes, with Liverpool perhaps more in control particularly defensively as Stout commanded her area well and Bonner standing strong to take the ball a little too easily from the feet of a Bristol forward.
Liverpool had the better of the chances to double their lead before half-time, at one stage penning Bristol in and around their 18-yard box but unable to find that final pass – Hodson’s cross missing White by a second and the successive throw-ins won by the corner flag leading to Longhurst’s pass searching for Dowie but intercepted.
Dowie almost audaciously added a second in what surely would have be a contender for the league’s goal of the season award; receiving the ball with her back to goal in the corner of the box, flicking it in the air and turning to volley goal wards – Earps reacting quickly to save. Dowie also had a header go over the crossbar and was once again stopped by Earps, with a low drive sent out for a corner.
Half-time: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Bristol Academy
Both Liverpool and Bristol made a change at half-time, with Satara Murray coming in for Kate Longhurst seeing Becky Easton move into midfield and Bristol’s Tatiana Pinto replacing Hannah Short.
The Reds began the second 45 minutes the way they had ended the first, creating opportunities with Pacheco pressing further up the pitch and Hodson continuing to send decent balls into the box. Hodson was the stand out performer against Durham last week and impressed once again on the afternoon, her quick bursts of pace eluding the defence and winning set pieces for Liverpool.
Bristol had an opportunity to equalise after Murray was penalised for a foul near the corner flag, Angharad James stepping up to take the free kick but Murray herself on hand in the wall to prevent the strike nearing goal. Martha Harris also frustrated Bristol with a goal line clearance later in the half.
Liverpool’s determinedness to trouble the Bristol back line soon resulted in a second goal, a near match for the goal scored against Durham as Hodson’s cross in from the right was converted by Dowie for her 7th goal since returning from the mid-season break. The no.9 was substituted shortly later to a great reception, the change likely made with one eye on the cup tie against Sunderland on Wednesday night.
Although Bristol had chances to pull a goal back, the calmness from the Liverpool defence meant the Reds seen out their first league clean sheet of the season – Murray strong to clear from a set piece, Stout coming out and holding onto successive corners and who else but Gemma Bonner with a well-timed sliding challenge in the penalty area in the dying seconds.
Full-time: Liverpool Ladies 2 – 0 Bristol Academy
Liverpool XI – Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Easton, Pacheco, Staniforth (Katrin), Zelem, Longhurst (Murray), Hodson, White, Dowie (Smorsgard)
Player of the Match – Ashley Hodson
Liverpool Ladies picked up their 3rd straight win in the Continental Cup on Saturday evening; Natasha Dowie coming off the bench to score the only goal of the game in the second half, her 4th in the competition so far.
Defensively the Reds were unchanged from last weekend’s 2-2 draw away at Sunderland with Mayumi Pacheco, Becky Easton, Gemma Bonner and Martha Harris lining up from left to right in front of Libby Stout in goal. Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir also remained in midfield, joined by Katie Zelem; Kate Longhurst, Line Smorsgard and Ashley Hodson the attacking front 3.
Throughout the first half Liverpool dominated the possession yet found it tough breaking Durham down, the visitors placing 9 players behind the ball and forward Amelia Pereira 20 yards or so ahead of them.
Liverpool had a number of corners in quick succession in the opening stages of the first half, Staniforth’s delivery good on each occasion – Longhurst getting her head to one but unable to direct her header goal wards. Staniforth also seen a free kick blocked by the wall and an audacious long range effort from 40-yards dip just a couple of seconds too late to go narrowly over the crossbar.
Ashley Hodson worked tirelessly up front searching for an opening, winning the first two corners and then latching onto a long ball over the top and through the middle of the defence. Hodson beating her marker with an impressive burst of speed yet her final strike inches wide.
The Reds were passing the ball around well, with Durham seemingly comfortable to allow the home side to keep the ball, standing off and rarely pressing. Kate Longhurst had a shot parried after Katie Zelem neatly clipped the ball to Hodson, her cross meeting Longhurst in the centre of the box but Helen Alderson in the Durham goal positioned well.
Longhurst was denied by Alderson again moments later, Hodson combining with Martha Harris to send the ball in from the right, Longhurst controlling and turning under pressure to get her shot in on target however an opening goal continued to elude Liverpool.
On the rare occasion Durham broke ranks, the Reds defence dealt with the attacks with ease – Becky Easton matching Nicki Gears run and eventually seeing the ball out for a goal kick. A free kick was also well defended by Liverpool, with Gemma Bonner and Easton both blocking rebound attempts.
Before half-time Staniforth rattled the post with a fiercely struck free kick and Line Smorsgard shot wide after being set up by Mayumi Pacheco.
Half-time: Liverpool Ladies 0 – 0 Durham WFC
Liverpool emerged unchanged for the second half and continued to pile the pressure on their visitors with Longhurst once more seeing her volley end in the arms of Alderson and a stunning cross in from Hodson skimming several red shirts in the box, while Pacheco shot over the crossbar and Bonner had a low drive punched away at the bottom corner.
A change in personnel arrived with 35 minutes to play, Matt Beard making a double substitution in bringing on Rosie White and Natasha Dowie for Omarsdottir and Smorsgard; the duo making an immediate impact.
Dowie has been in fine goalscoring form since the return from the summer break and looked hungry for more here, her first touch a nicely struck hit from the edge of the box deflected out for a corner, then the no.9 chased down Zelem’s through ball – the shot blocked and looking to be headed out for a corner, until hitting the turf and bouncing into the hands of the grateful keeper. Alderson then produced a good save at close range from Dowie after she had been put through by White.
After her introduction it seemed only a matter of time before the striker was on the score sheet, 10 minutes after entering the fray Dowie converted Hodson’s cross over the line to put Liverpool ahead – and then almost scored a second immediately from the restart.
The goal would prove to be the decisive one here, White going close hitting the crossbar and Bonner shooting wide in the final minutes.
Satara Murray also made a welcome return from injury during the second half, although replacing Longhurst who picked up an injury during a brief flurry of activity in the Liverpool box.
Full-time: Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Durham WFC
XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Easton, Pacheco, Omarsdottir (White), Staniforth, Zelem, Smorsgard (Dowie), Longhurst (Murray), Hodson
POTM Ashley Hodson
A great fighting performance from Liverpool, who are unlucky not to come away with 3 points. Next up for the Reds they’re back in Continental Cup action against Durham WFC next Saturday 15th August at Select Security Stadium, Widnes.