The FA Women’s Super League Spring Series came to an end on Saturday afternoon, Liverpool Ladies falling to a final day 3-1 defeat to Manchester City Women.
The FA Cup winners had took a 2-0 lead in at the break, Jill Scott and then Melissa Lawley putting the Blues in control. Megan Campbell then came from the bench to score a free kick from an audacious angle to further extend the lead, before Caroline Weir struck a late consolation for the Reds.
Perhaps buoyed by the knowledge title rivals – and eventual winners on goal difference – Chelsea had put seven past this Liverpool side the previous week, City came out all guns blazing.
Toni Duggan drifted wide and picked out Carli Lloyd, yet Katie Zelem was back in defence to block the USA captain’s attempt at a cross and the Reds cleared the resulting corner.
Gemma Bonner then beat Lloyd to a cross in the box and intercepted a through ball from Scott looking for Duggan, enabling centre-back partner Sophie Ingle to hook the ball away.
The Reds were defending well in the initial stages of the game, the memories of the heavy defeat at Chelsea fading away as Ingle and Bonner teamed up to prevent Lawley getting into the box. Siobhan Chamberlain also produced a strong hand to punch a Georgia Stanway effort wide.
Liverpool looked to be content to soak up the pressure from their visitors, waiting for the opportunity to break away and almost succeeding – Tash Harding’s pressing almost forcing City into an error at the back, Steph Houghton scrambling the ball away.
Harding has been a revelation for the Reds in 2017, enjoying a fine run of form and looking most likely here in the first half to make something happen.
The Welsh international went on a surging run down the left wing and tried to slip the ball back to Shanice Van De Sanden – this pass intercepted and so too another a minute later, this time Harding attempting to square the ball to Jess Clarke.
The first real chance of the game for either side came midway through the half, Lloyd finding Duggan with a cross and the no.9 turning to shoot inches wide.
Liverpool looked to be getting a handle on proceedings – Clarke spectacularly winning the ball from Jennifer Beattie to charge forward and cross towards Harding, who arrived a second too late to tap it home.
Van De Sanden’s cross was also headed by Laura Coombs to the feet of Weir, yet the Scottish midfielder was quickly closed down.
It was then that City took the lead, Duggan swinging in a corner that was flicked on by Beattie to Scott, who nodded the ball over her international team mate.
The response from the Reds was to create an opportunity of their own via a corner, Harding and Clarke combining to earn the set piece from which Bonner fired agonisingly wide.
Two minutes into injury time City struck again, Lawley had already been denied by Bonner but there was no stopping the next strike. Lawley spinning just outside the area and curling a wonderful strike into the far top corner to double the lead.
Liverpool came out fighting for the second half, looking more and more likely to score as time went on; Coombs’ strike over the crossbar, Clarke’s cross skimming in front of both Weir and Harding and Bonner unable to direct her header on target from a corner.
City were defending well as the Reds dominated possession, the wall doing it’s job to stop Weir’s free kick reaching the goal goal and Marie Hourihan beating Clarke to the ball after Weir and Van De Sanden had exchanged passes out wide.
However it was the Blues that would score next, substitute Megan Campbell curling in a free kick that thwarted Chamberlain from a tight angle.
Credit to this Liverpool side who wouldn’t let their heads drop; Clarke heading a Coombs set piece wide after Niamh Charles had won the free kick for the Reds near the byline, and the number nine also unable to reach a cross in from Harding.
Liverpool boss Scott Rogers made a triple substitution with five minutes to go, Van De Sanden, Charles and Zelem replaced by Ali Johnson, Kate Longhurst and Amy Rodgers.
As the fourth official indicated there would be six minutes added at the end of the second half, Weir struck a left-footed effort from wide of the 18-yard box – the strike going across the face of goal and in off the post to bag a late consolation for the Reds.
LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Hodson, Bonner (C), Ingle, Charles (Longhurst), Coombs, Zelem (Rodgers), Weir, Van De Sanden (Johnson), Clarke, Harding