Perseverance was key for Liverpool Ladies on Friday night as they defeated Everton Ladies 2-0 in the opening game of the 2017-18 FA Women’s Super League season.
Natasha Harding opened the scoring in the 69th minute after Alex Greenwood’s set piece caused chaos in the Everton area, while Niamh Charles scored her first senior goal for the club in injury time to seal the three points.
On-loan forward Bethany England made her debut leading the line for the Reds, supported by Harding, Jess Clarke, Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs.
Satara Murray made a welcome return to the back four alongside Gemma Bonner, Casey Stoney and Alex Greenwood; with Sophie Ingle ahead of them and Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.
Liverpool dominated their Merseyside rivals from the opening whistle, showing glimpses early on of the attacking flair that made them a threat in the Spring Series.
Coombs was in the thick of the action throughout, proving a handful and racing box-to-box. Early in the half the Reds number eight chased a long ball from England only for the defence to scramble it away at the edge of the box.
Despite playing up front England was also dropping deep, showing great vision just ten minutes in to play a pass forward that was flicked on by Harding and picked up by Weir; the Scotland international smashing the ball at goal and seeing Everton goalkeeper Lizzie Durack tip her effort over the crossbar.
A stand out player in the aforementioned Spring Series, Greenwood was providing a great outlet down the left wing for Liverpool linking up with Harding ahead of her and allowing the Reds to consistently push in from the left.
England had Liverpool’s first chance heading Clarke’s cross the wrong side of the post and fifteen minutes in seen another header land in the hands of Durack. The Havard graduate was quick to redistribute possession for the Blues leading to a chance for new signing Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, who must have thought she’d netted on her debut only for Stoney to waltz in and clear the strike off the line.
Everton were the home side in Widnes on the evening and grew into the game, new captain Dan Turner swinging in a threatening cross that Jodie Brett attacked yet was unable to connect with while former Liverpool forward Claudia Walker was lively throughout.
As the half drew on the Reds were awarded two free kicks in quick succession in similar areas, Coombs sending the first wide and Weir’s dipping a second too late to go over the crossbar.
Everton’s Gabby George also flashed an effort wide following a set piece while at the other end England tapped the ball to Weir under pressure, Weir finding Harding who curled a shot in on goal that was collected by Durack.
The biggest chance of the first half came ten minutes before the break as Weir curled in a free kick from near the half way line, Clarke won the header which crashed off the bar and Durack somehow managed to keep England’s diving header from crossing the line.
Out for the second half and the Reds continued to be patient as they probed for the opening goal, Greenwood cutting in from the left to cross to England who couldn’t direct her header on target and Coombs playing a one-two with Weir before firing a strike from distance over the bar.
England could count herself unlucky not to be on the scoresheet as she went close again after getting on the end of another Greenwood cross; Greenwood also almost setting up Harding – whose shot was caught by Durack – and Weir who couldn’t get on the end of yet another cross in from the left.
Eventually the chances would turn into goals, it was of course Greenwood who sent in the free kick that was bandied around the Everton box – Bonner’s effort cleared off the line by Turner to land at the feet of Harding who fired the ball into the back of the net. Fan-favourite Harding celebrated passionately pointing at her shirt to the erupting Liverpool supporters in the crowd.
Two substitutes combined to seal the win, Scott Rogers first sending on Niamh Charles to replace Clarke and Ashley Hodson for England.
Charles first watching as Durack punched her shot away after going one-on-one with the ‘keeper who also got to Hodson’s strike in injury time, however Charles arrived to slot home the rebound and secure the three points for Liverpool.
Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (C), Stoney, Greenwood, Ingle, Coombs, Weir, Clarke (Charles), Harding, England (Hodson)
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