Liverpool Ladies U16s progressed to The FA Youth Cup semi-finals on Saturday, beating Aston Villa Ladies U16s 4-1.
The young Reds sealed their league title last weekend and ensured their winning streak continued here; Blanchard hit a hat trick and also bagged an assist to set up Willis, before Villa struck a late consolation.
During the opening five minutes each side looked to carve out opportunities at each end of the pitch, Hickey had to be wise to the run of Villa’s number 9 while Liverpool goalkeeper Gordon also denied the Villa forward – strongly blocking a strike with her feet at the near post.
For Liverpool, U16 captain Kearns was instrumental in the middle of the field – a crunching challenge early on earning the Reds possession that led to a cross from Willis skimming the head of Pike.
It was Kearns who had the first attempt at goal for the Reds, a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box beaten away by the Villa ‘keeper and Blanchard unable to get a hold of the rebound.
Liverpool were passing the ball around well and beginning to dominate possession, a lovely turn from Fitzpatrick almost set Blanchard through on goal only for the ‘keeper to be quick off her line to intercept the pass.
Blanchard wasn’t to be denied for long however and soon opened the scoring; Kearns had picked out the run of Willis on the left wing, Willis then found Blanchard with a low cross who in turn found the back of the net to put Liverpool ahead.
The Reds forward then turned provider for the second just two minutes later, returning the favour to tee up Willis who finished a great team move that had built up from Gordon.
Villa responded but could only watch as Gordon denied them at every turn, quick off her line to claw the ball away from the feet of the attacker, down at the near post to block a low strike and stretching to push a shot destined for the top corner wide.
Ahead of Gordon in central defence Beard and Roberts also put in a good shift, assisted by Parry in defensive midfield just ahead of them. Beard getting just enough on a Villa cross to allow Gordon to gather the loose ball and Beard showing excellent awareness to shield the ball back to the ‘keeper on more than one occasion.
Midway through the first half Blanchard struck again, her initial effort was saved by the goalkeeper but the number 9 scored from her own rebound to make it 3-0.
Liverpool continued to threaten as they kicked off the second half, Kearns with a clever ball out to Pike who almost found Blanchard – only for the offside flag to be raised – and Parry breaking up play at the back to kick start an attack that ended with Fitzpatrick’s hit being tipped around the post.
With twenty minutes left on the clock Blanchard had her hat trick with the pick of the afternoon’s goals. The striker latched onto a pass from Willis to flick the ball up for herself and fired across the ‘keeper into the bottom right corner.
Full back Boydell has recently made the step up to the club’s Development Squad and almost found herself on the score sheet here, flashing the ball wide following a sweeping Reds move that was again orchestrated by Kearns in the middle.
A quintet of Reds came from the bench to help their counterparts see the game through to the final whistle, Binks, Barlow and Fenton on for Boydell, Beard and Hickey while Scholefield and Dudley-Jones replaced Fitzpatrick and Willis in attack.
As the game came to a close Villa’s number 14 came from the bench to slot the ball home, the goal however a late consolation and Liverpool comfortably into the semi-finals.
Liverpool Ladies U16: Gordon, Boydell (Binks), Roberts, Beard (Barlow), Hickey (Fenton), Parry, Kearns ©, Fitzpatrick (Scholefield), Pike, Blanchard, Willis (Dudley-Jones)