BRESCIA CF: An insight into the Italian Serie A

LIVERPOOL LADIES Champions League opponents Brescia Calcio Femminile are due to get their 2015/16 league season underway today (Sunday, October 18) as they take on newly promoted Vittorio Veneto. Yet just a couple of days ago the Italian Serie A club issued a statement on their website and across social media channels supporting their players decision to strike with the Italian Footballers Association (AIC) against the Italian FA (FIGC) and in doing so, refusing to play the opening game.
President Guiseppe Cesari was quoted as saying that he wants to “continue to believe in and support this initiative which will bring change” and that he “hoped the decision would be supported by other presidents and football fans”.
Having spoken to some Brescia fans and players over the course of the 2 legs, I was intrigued to find out more about the situation unfolding in Italy. Maria Gatti, who had contacted @LFCladiesfans on Twitter after the first leg, has answered a number of questions to shine some light on the league in Italy.
The bizarre way in which the league is structured was set out to me by Maria;

  • Italian Serie A currently has 12 teams and this season will run from October 2015 to May 2016
  • Like in England, the winner and runner up qualify for the Champions League
  • However the number of relegation places is unknown: nobody knows how many teams will go down at the end of the campaign and this, she says “is one of the infinite problems in Italian women’s football.”

From an outsider’s point of view it certainly seems odd, in 2014/15 “there were 14 teams. The last 3 were suddenly demoted, while from positions 8 to 11 they played in the play off. The winner remained in Serie A and the other 3 relegated to Serie B.”

Maria explained how this strike was a decision made by the players to protect their rights, and compared it to the stand-off between the Australian women’s team and their football association last month – the Matildas went on strike and did not travel to the US for a pre-arranged friendly with the World Cup winners.
However not all Italian teams are united, meaning that if the team Brescia were facing did not also strike then Brescia would forfeit the 3 points at their oppositions gain. Officially only Brescia and Florentina declared their stance on the strike.
Brescia’s reasons in favour of the strike, as set out by their players, being that “they want the rights they deserve, equality and respect. They don’t want promises but laws and facts.”
Florentina on the other hand did not support the strike, thinking “that a strike of this kind would not lead to anything.”
The Australians key demands in their dispute, as summarised in The Guardian, were as follows: they wanted pay equality and equality of opportunity, a career pathway to be established for elite women footballers and a provision of basic minimum standards setting out the commitment and requirements necessary for high performance standards in international football.
The Italians laid out their plans for the players to strike in a statement published on the AIC website, claiming that “after years of broken promises and words, women’s football in Italy has truly arrived at its turning point.” They want “concrete investments as in other European nations” for the country to “have the development and growth that it deserves”, saying that to not invest would be “the umpteenth missed opportunity”.
And they go on to say “it is not a protest against someone, but a protest to do something concrete in favour of all the components of the movement”, “no more ‘promises to do’ that are lost in an indefinite future, but facts and answers visible now”.
On October 6th a meeting was held to discuss the requests of the players, and with no written agreement from the FA as requested as of the 16th, the decision was made to abstain from the opening round of games. 
Short term, the Italians threat to strike seems to have paid off and the opening round of games will be played after an agreement was reached early on Saturday between the Italian FA and the organisation representing the players. The AIC announced their withdrawal of the planned strike after the Italian FA president has vowed to bring the “attention of the relevant federal agencies” to the “issues raised by the AIC”.
Speaking to Maria about the challenges facing Italian women’s football has been eye-opening and I can only echo her sentiment of “hoping that this is a first step to change things in Italy.” Brescia certainly have the support behind them, as of Thursday morning their crowd of 2,700 for the home leg against Liverpool was the 4th highest in the Champions League this year so far – moving the game to the men’s ground undoubtedly had its bonuses – and hopefully the fans can continue to get behind their players as they fight for more equal rights and opportunities.


MATT BEARD’S reign as manager of Liverpool Ladies FC came to an end as the Reds bowed out the Champions League, losing 1-0 on the night to Italian side Brescia CF.

The away goal came against the run of play midway through the first-half, Liverpool were denied what looked to be a clear penalty shortly after and had a goal disallowed for offside.

The final game of the year seen a trio of injured players return to the line-up with Libby Stout back in goal, Martha Harris at right-back and Asisat Oshoala on the wing – Corina Schroder and Line Smorsgard were unused substitutes.

In Gemma Bonner’s absence, Natasha Dowie captained the side once more and Katrin Omarsdottir stepped back into central defence to partner Satara Murray, Ingrid Ryland at left-back and Lucy Staniforth playing in a deep central midfield role with Rosie White, Katie Zelem, and Ashley Hodson completing the line-up.

Liverpool came under pressure early on, similar to the first leg the Italians initially probing on the right with Daniela Sabatino who was easily dispossessed by Ryland. Sabatino was then the target of a cross in from the same side, this was blocked by Omarsdottir seconds before the Icelandic and Murray were quick to react and close down a nifty back heel from Tarenzi at the edge of the area.

In Brescia, Staniforth had played in a wide position and moving back into the centre of the pitch on the night here showed great vision with a couple of passes during the first half  – one falling perfectly for Dowie who set up Zelem but she could find no way through the sea of blue shirts. Later in the half a low pass sliced through the defence reached Oshoala, yet before the Nigerian could take a second touch the keeper (a 17-year old substitute who had only just took to the pitch) was quick off her line to collect.

Zelem had been involved at the other end prior to this, helping out in defence and clearing towards Hodson who impressively accelerated and left Brescia centre back Elena Linari way off the pace but her cross towards the waiting Dowie was intercepted by Sara Gama.

The Reds began looking more and more likely to take the lead and were attacking in numbers with Harris and Ryland pressing high up. Harris slipped Oshoala in with a neat through ball, the offside was however up even before Oshoala’s cross was sent wide by Hodson and Murray also seen a header go the wrong side of the post from a Staniforth set piece.

Dowie’s hold up play was once more excellent, laying another ball into the path of Zelem who couldn’t quite connect right with it and Harris’ strike went over the crossbar after good work by the no.9 and Ryland.

Brescia took the lead against the run of play, the tricky Sabatino winning the ball midway through the Liverpool half, charging forward with a run matched by Barbara Bonanesa and the latter slotted the ball home from 6 yards out to grab an important away goal – this meaning the Reds would need 3 goals to progress to the Round of 16.

Before half-time the referee made a controversial decision as the French official waved away Liverpool’s cries of handball, Roberta D’Adda had appeared to block a Zelem strike with her arm.

Liverpool went straight on the attack in the second half, searching for goals while Brescia were happy to sit back and defend their advantage. Hodson won a corner from kick-off, which led to 3 successive set pieces – the final of which fell to Oshoala outside the box who volleyed wide.

Hodson then had a shot blocked, while Oshoala could find no way past Gama after a tidy turn from White in the Brescia half. White also sent Dowie chasing a through ball, but with two imposing Italian defenders Dowie clipped her strike inches off target

In the semi-final against Notts County on Sunday, Fara Williams had made her welcome return from injury and played the final 25 minutes as she replaced Staniforth in central midfield.

A glimmer of hope briefly flickered as Oshoala looked to have pulled a goal back with a brilliant header, yet perplexingly the lineswoman flagged for offside and the goal was disallowed, stifling hopes of a comeback – Williams going closest before the final whistle, her corner almost straight in at the near post but held well by the keeper. While up at the other end a great save from Stout prevented the deficit from being 2 on the night.

The defeat marks the end of a tough year for Liverpool Ladies, the squad that Beard had hailed as his strongest yet has been massively depleted by injury since the mid-season break – 15 first team players missing numerous games. The manager now departs for a new challenge in the USA, while whoever takes over the helm at the Reds inherits a squad that now boasts a wealth of experienced youth players but will also, as Beard said in an interview with the Liverpool Echo this week, need support from the club to replace the top class players lost over the last 2 seasons and compete once more at the top of the table.

LIVERPOOL LADIES Stout, Harris, Omarsdottir, Murray, Ryland, Staniforth (Williams), White (Dale), Zelem, Oshoala, Hodson, Dowie (C)


Finally, a thank you to everyone who has followed @LFCladiesfans this season, stick with me over the break as I’ll be bringing you news from the Development Squad – their campaign running until the end of November and picking up again at the beginning of February.


Ellen White scored twice in the first-half for Notts County Ladies, sending them into the Continental Cup final at the expense of Liverpool Ladies.
Liverpool’s bad luck with injury has been relentless this season and tonight seen Gemma Bonner, Martha Harris and Asisat Oshoala join Libby Stout, Line Smorsgard, Becky Easton, Corina Schroder and Kate Longhurst on the sidelines – Fara Williams made a welcome return from a 3 month lay-off during the game’s closing stages.
Liverpool’s 8 injured first team players
Due to this, the Reds had a young line up with Shannon Beckwith making her first start alongside Satara Murray, Ingrid Ryland and Maz Pacheco in defence, while with Stout still out Danielle Gibbons retained her place in goal.
Hannah Dale also came into the side but Liverpool were otherwise unchanged – Natasha Dowie up front with Rosie White and Ashley Hodson in support and Katrin Omarsdottir and Katie Zelem in midfield.
Liverpool had the first chance of the game and were denied only by the woodwork; the ball had been played out from the back initially as Beckwith intercepted a through ball, this allowed R.White and Dowie to break with the former teeing up the latter. Dowie’s shot was deflected wide, R.White’s corner crashed off the crossbar and Murray could only head over the rebound.
It would be County who took the lead after just 5 minutes, the referee gave a handball against Ryland and E. White headed former Everton defender Alex Greenwood’s set piece across the line.
The visitors are renowned for their tricky set pieces, a free kick against Arsenal earlier in the season saw White score after what had appeared to be confusion between several players was merely a ruse. Here tonight in Widnes they tried a sneaky move again, Omarsdottir however wise to Greenwood lurking away from the dead ball and getting in the way of her strike.
Liverpool were pressing well, particularly in the midfield area with Dale buzzing everywhere, snapping at the heels of the Notts players and generally getting herself into good positions – another corner taken by R.White had fallen to the young midfielder in space outside of the box, this reaching Murray who’s header towards goal was blocked. 
Another good run by Dale was picked out minutes later, R.White had been delayed taking a free kick in the Liverpool half as E.White for Notts kicked the ball away. Once she had the ball back at her feet, Pacheco had gotten herself further up the left wing and, upon receiving the ball, played it through to Dale but the pass was cut out.
Frustratingly it was then E.White who would score her second and double Notts’ lead, tucking home Dani Buet’s cross sent in from the right.
The best chance for Liverpool to pull a goal back came minutes before half-time as Pacheco made a powerful charge forward from left-back, her cross was chested to R.White by Omarsdottir but the New Zealand international’s low drive went the wrong side of the post and the Reds went in 2 down at the break.
In the middle of the pitch Zelem gave an eye-catching performance, one driving run just before half-time seen her go all the way to the edge of the 18-yard box yet here she was quickly closed down and couldn’t get a shot in. 
Zelem was also creating chances both for herself and her team mates; shooting wide from 30-yards shortly into the second half, setting Hodson up with a defence-splitting pass and then putting through Dowie – the no.9 going through on goal, battling all the way with Laura Bassett and seeing her strike stopped by Carly Telford, although a foul had been given against the striker. 
Liverpool made a trio of substitutions in the midfield area as the half grew on, Lucy Staniforth on for Dale, Mollie Green making her first team debut replacing R.White and Fara Williams, making her first appearance since picking up a hamstring injury in the league defeat against County here back in July, coming in for the impressive Zelem. 
It just wasn’t to be for the Reds on the night, Dowie unable to reach Beckwith’s long ball over the top and Hodson seeing the ball headed away before she could reach Pacheco’s cross inside the box, while up at the other end E.White was denied her hat trick by the linesman and Jess Clarke seen a tap-in go wide.
Liverpool next face Brescia CF in their second leg Champions League Round of 32 tie this Wednesday (October 14), looking to overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Italy last week.
LIVERPOOL LADIES Gibbons, Ryland, Beckwith, Murray, Pacheco, Omarsdottir, Zelem (Williams), White (Green), Dale (Staniforth), Hodson, Dowie (C)


LIVERPOOL LADIES were beaten by a goal to nil in their first leg Champions League Round of 32 tie.
The Reds conceded an unlucky first half goal and then proceeded to do everything but score an equaliser as the game wore on, the second leg will be playing at the Select Stadium, Widnes on Wednesday, October 14th.
There was just the one change from Sunday’s 4-2 defeat away at Bristol Academy as Ashley Hodson came in for Maz Pacheco; signalling a change in formation with Ingrid Ryland at left back, Martha Harris at right back and Gemma Bonner and Satara Murray in the middle of the defence.
Natasha Dowie of course led Liverpool from up front with Lucy Staniforth and Hodson playing wide either side of her and Rosie White, Katrin Omarsdottir and Katie Zelem in the middle. Danielle Gibbons kept her place between the posts after replacing the injured Libby Stout at the weekend.
It would be a quiet opening from both sides, yet it was Christiana Girelli and Valentina Cernoia of Brescia attempting to create the early flair; the latter twice thwarted by Ryland as the Norwegian first pressed well to prevent Cernoia’s cross meeting its target at the edge of the box and then wise to Girelli’s clever pass, intercepting the pass to quickly forward the ball to White, in turn White put Hodson through but the Brescia defender was back to challenge.
Liverpool’s early attempts seen Zelem lift the ball over the Italian back 3, just a tad too far for Dowie to connect. Then, Omarsdottir’s tidy turn in midfield allowed the Reds to switch the play, as she received the ball from the left, turning to pass along to Harris, who carried the ball forward and played a ball low towards Hodson. Hodson’s low cross was blocked, but the intent from Liverpool was promising.
Brescia’s Stefania Tarenzi was then denied by Omarsdottir after attempting to slot past the Icelandic in the box, the Italian’s had perhaps 2 or 3 players supporting Tarenzi yet Omardottir’s challenge made sure that Liverpool regained possession, allowing the Reds to break – Hodson winning a corner after a knock on from Dowie, the resulting corner delivered low by Staniforth but cleared by the defence.
After having poor luck breaking down the resilient Liverpool defence, the home side resulted to long range efforts – the first sailing easily into Gibbons’ arms, the second however eluded the keepers’ grip and went over the line to gift Brescia a 1-0 lead.
The Reds continued to press forward, Ryland far up the pitch at one point and closing down a defender at the edge of the area only for a foul to be given against her, then good pressing in and around the box seen Liverpool’s first chance, Dowie’s turn-and-shot cleared as far as Zelem who’s strike also bounced the wrong side of the post.
At half-time, Matt Beard made a change with Asisat Oshoala coming in for Hodson.
Upon the restart Liverpool also registered a shot but unfortunately, unlike against Arsenal and Bristol, Staniforth’s half way line strike landed a little short and into the arms of Chiara Marchitelli.
A bright start from Oshoala seen the Nigerian international chase balls over the top, then White picked her out and a low cross into the box towards Dowie was only pulled back because the assistant referee adjudged the no.9 to be in an offside position.
Oshoala continued to look bright, cutting back by the byline and setting up Dowie – the striker hitting the ball first time and it only just going over the crossbar. Dowie herself had had a cross blocked moments earlier after being slipped through by Ryland on the left.
It was all Liverpool at the beginning of the second half, Harris’ cross being punched away by the goalkeeper only as far as Staniforth who’s first time strike was blocked.
As the visitors looked to be getting on top and edging ever closer to an equaliser, Bonner was challenged in midfield, looking in pain, and the captain required an immediate substitution – story of Liverpool’s season – with Shannon Beckwith coming on in place of her.
Beckwith captained the club’s development squad to the league title in 2014-15 and this was her first team debut – the young centre-back putting in a highly impressive, composed, calm and confident shift. Coming forward over the half way line to intercept one forward pass – flicking it to the feet of Omarsdottir – and, prior to that, hooking the ball away under pressure from Brescia no.9 Daniela Sabatino who had only Gibbons to beat if she had passed the defender.
The away goal would however continue to elude Liverpool, a tricky run from Oshoala passed several Brescia players but the cross couldn’t meet Dowie in the centre and a late free kick from Staniforth went inches wide.
Liverpool go into the second leg a goal down, possibly a captain down as well, but with everything to play for against a very beatable side. Tickets on the gate at just £5 an adult. Support the team, get down to Widnes next Wednesday.
LIVERPOOL LADIES Gibbons, Harris, Bonner © (Beckwith), Murray, Ryland, Omarsdottir, Zelem, White, Staniforth, Hodson (Oshoala), Dowie



LIVERPOOL LADIES capped off a disappointing league campaign with a final day 4-2 defeat away at Bristol Academy.

The Reds had tied the score at 1-1 after going a goal down, but the home side raced back ahead – Natasha Dowie added a late consolation, converting a corner.

Elsewhere in the league Chelsea Ladies emphatically beat Sunderland 4-0 to claim their first league title and a 2-1 victory for Manchester City, in front of an impressive crowd of 3,180, placed them second to secure Champions League football in 2016/17.

Goalkeeper Libby Stout had been injured during the closing stages of the 4-0 defeat to Chelsea Ladies last weekend and did not travel with the team – Danielle Gibbons making her return between the posts after having brain surgery in the summer.

Natasha Dowie led the line up front, with Maz Pacheco, Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner and Ingrid Ryland in defence; Rosie White playing wide left, Ingrid Ryland on the right, Lucy Staniforth and Katrin Omarsdottir in the middle and Katie Zelem playing behind Dowie.

Bristol took an early lead, Anghared James battling her way through the defence to cross low to Caroline Weir and the Scot turning well in the box from both Bonner and Harris to finish past Gibbons

Good pressure in and around the box by Liverpool would eventually pay off – first Harris’ throw-in landed at the feet of Dowie but the no.9 couldn’t turn against the tight marking and then Ryland, who has enjoyed a good run of form of late despite results, was also influential in the Reds best passing move of perhaps the entire 90 minutes.

Winning the ball in midfield, passing to Staniforth who turned to play in Omarsdottir. She carried it forward past a number of Bristol shirts before passing back wide to Ryland who still found herself in space however the cross was headed away.

The equaliser came as a result of Liverpool just getting the ball forward amongst the defence and into the box, White’s cross hitting Bristol defender Hannah Short to bring the score level.

But the home side would reassume their lead before half-time, Christie Murray lifting the ball over Gibbons and into the back of the net.

Weir almost added a third twice before half-time, first watching an audacious long range effort fly wide before being denied by Gibbons’ quick reaction save. Not long into the second half however, the Scottish international would make it 3-1 after converting a cross sent in from the left.

Staniforth, as she had against Arsenal, attempted to score from the restart and was only denied by a fingertips save from Earps. Taking the corner short and receiving the ball back, Staniforth was once more thwarted only by Earps who again sent the strike out for a corner.

Ashley Hodson had replaced Pacheco at the break, with Harris moving across to cover left-back and Ryland going to the right side of defence.

Working tirelessly again up front Dowie was drifting out wide to pick up the ball, winning multiple corners that Liverpool were unable to take advantage off.

Dowie had the ball in the back of the net after good build up play by the Reds, Ryland’s throw finding Omarsdottir who was quickly closed down and passed back up the line to Ryland who then picked out Zelem; the midfielder setting Dowie up with a through ball who finished nicely but the assistant referee had flagged for offside.

Bristol also had a goal disallowed for offside shortly afterwards, however soon made it 4-1 with Tatiana Pinto getting on the score sheet

With the score at 4-1 Liverpool refused to back down, Zelem shooting wide after a cut back from substitute Asisat Oshoala and Staniforth having a driving free kick blocked.

Dowie pulled a goal back after a series of corners. White swung a corner in towards the back post, this was headed on by Bonner and sent over the line by Dowie – scoring her 6th goal past Bristol this year.

They kept pushing, looking to close the gap further, Dowie cutting in from the left to win a corner in a move that mirrored an earlier move. This came to nothing and after 4 minutes of added time, the already relegated Bristol side finished their season with a 4-2 win.

The defeat caps a disappointing league season for Liverpool Ladies, never able to get off the ground and marred by injuries to key players throughout – Corina Schroder missing the majority of the year, Fara Williams still yet to return after 3 months out and Kate Longhurst the most recent to be side lined.

Becky Easton, Danielle Gibbons, Satara Murray, Ingrid Ryland, Line Smorsgard, Ashley Hodson, Katrin Omarsdottir, Asisat Oshoala, Libby Stout and Lucy Staniforth have all missed games, a total of 14 first team players and Liverpool have never had a fully fit squad for Matt Beard to choose a starting 11 from.

Despite this, there are positives the Reds can carry forward into the next season – for whichever manager comes in. The players have shown grit and determination, especially young players Maz Pacheco, Katie Zelem and Ashley Hodson who might not have had the game time without the injuries.

It was also pleasing to see Shannon Beckwith on the bench against Bristol, Beckwith is a talented young centre-back who reads the game well and captained the club’s development side to the league title earlier this year. Rachel Darbyshire and Mollie Green have also gained valuable experience being around the first team both in training and on match days.

Gemma Bonner has performed remarkably for a struggling side, Martha Harris has had a fine second season, Natasha Dowie’s goals once again proving a bright spark and Kate Longhurst had been exceptional up until her injury – playing every position but goalkeeper.

Liverpool have an important trio of games over the next couple of weeks, starting with an away tie at Brescia CF this upcoming Wednesday in the Champions League Round of 32 and the home leg a week later – both games will be screened live on LFCTV. In the middle of the Champions League games the Reds also face Notts County in the Continental Cup semi-final at Select Stadium, Widnes, Sunday 11th October.

Get behind the Reds. Tickets available for both home games on the gate.

LIVERPOOL LADIES Gibbons, Harris, Bonner ©, Murray, Pacheco (Hodson), Ryland, Staniforth, Omarsdottir (Oshoala), White, Zelem, Dowie