Liverpool Ladies slipped to a 2-0 league defeat at home to Arsenal Ladies; the Gunners had missed a first-half penalty but secured the 3 points with second-half strikes from Dominique Janssen and Jordan Nobbs.
After playing a rotated side against Manchester City last weekend, and losing Becky Easton to a broken arm, there were a number of changes to the starting 11; Martha Harris returning to right-back amongst an otherwise unchanged backline that included Gemma Bonner, Satara Murray and Mayumi Pacheco with Libby Stout in goal.
In midfield Kate Longhurst, Katrin Omarsdottir and Katie Zelem also returned to the line up, along with Ashley Hodson on the right of the attack – Natasha Dowie and Rosie White retaining their places.
Arsenal came into this game looking to put pressure on Chelsea Ladies at the top of the table, the Gunners now sit in second place behind Chelsea with their fellow Londoners having one more game to play and their intent was clear from the opening whistle as they constantly closed down Liverpool, pressing high up the pitch.
It was Liverpool however who would have the game’s first chance, Zelem with a lovely through ball to Dowie who carried it forward down the right wing before cutting in behind former England captain Casey Stoney and firing just wide of the post.
Zelem was also proving influential at the opposite end of the pitch, well positioned for two of Arsenal’s corners to block the delivery at the near post and then recovering well to dispossess striker Natalia Pablos Sanchon at the edge of the area.
For the visitors most of their attacks were being forged on the right, with Danielle Carter out wide and linking well with Alex Scott – one clever pass from Carter being sent whizzing across the face of goal by Scott, Nobbs connecting with the rebound but hitting her shot straight at Stout.
Jordan Nobbs almost drifted out wide, seemingly having a free role in the midfield, but was consistently stopped by Pacheco – who also stood strong against Carter. On one occasion Pacheco went to the aid of Dowie, winning the ball on the half way line and sending it towards the chasing Hodson but Arsenal keeper Sari Van Veenendaal was quick off her line to snuff out the attack.
Van Veenendaal was called into action again minutes later, Dowie laying the ball off into the path of White who struck it well, curling to the top left corner but the keeper got across to save. Then, spotting the keeper off her line – a theme that will resurface later – White attempted a lob from distance, the effort dipping only just over the crossbar.
As the game approached half-time, Murray conceded a penalty – previously booked for a challenge in the opening 5 minutes. Luckily for the Reds Natalia stepped up to send a weak spot kick wide of the post and the score remained 0-0 as the opening 45 minutes drew to a close.
Arsenal continued to pile on the pressure as play resumed for the second-half, Stout tipping away Carter’s strike and Bonner carrying the ball to safety before herself denying Carter with a great sliding interception to prevent Vicky Losada’s pass from reaching the Gunners no.9.
Bonner would then have Liverpool’s best chance to take the lead, beating Marta Corredera with ease in her own half and sending a long ball to Dowie who had drifted out wide. Dowie winning a throw that would lead to a corner and White’s set piece delivered perfectly to Reds captain Bonner in the middle of the 6-yard box, who hit the ball on the volley and was somehow denied by an excellent save from Van Veenendaal.
Liverpool would cause panic again with the corner this save resulted in, Hodson’s shot spilled but the Reds unable to capitalise.
Just as the home side appeared to be getting on top, with Longhurst looking to be playing higher up the pitch and Lucy Staniforth coming on for Katie Zelem, Arsenal were awarded a free kick yards from the 18-yard box, Janssen stepping up and converting the set piece with a well-taken strike.
From kick-off Liverpool almost pulled a goal back immediately through substitute Staniforth as the midfielder spotted Van Veenendaal off her line and attempted to lob the ball over the keeper from the halfway, an impressive effort was just as impressively tipped over the bar by the retreating keeper.
Staniforth then threaded a neat ball to Dowie, who couldn’t quite get a shot in being crowded out by the two central defender, and looped a great pass over the defence for the hard working Harris to chase – the right-back doing well to get a touch on the ball with the looming goalkeeper but unable to get a shot in.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Arsenal doubled their lead with Nobbs finishing past Stout from the edge of the 6-yard box. Liverpool thought they had pulled a goal back shortly later after a Staniforth free kick looked to be over the line after initially bouncing around the box, the better placed linesman confidently saying no goal and the game finishing 2-0 to Arsenal.
XI Stout, Harris, Bonner (C), Murray, Pacheco, Longhurst, Omarsdottir (Smorsgard), Zelem (Staniforth), Hodson, White, Dowie
POTM Martha Harris