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
PLAYER OF THE MATCH Martha Harris