Oh it’s been a week.
Neil Redfearn’s new-look Liverpool F.C. Women side took on Casey Stoney’s all-new Manchester United Women last Sunday in the curtain raiser for the 2018/ 19 campaign.
As you would expect from two sides put together only seven weeks earlier there was an uneasy start to the tie as each team grappled for possession and then brief spells of dominance from both.
United probably edged the first half and the Reds the second. United’s goal coming in the 83rd minutes arguably against the run of play although very well worked and one that we had grown accustomed to over the last couple of years – Alex Greenwood nipping inside and drilling a low cross along the six-yard box, allowing Lizzie Arnot to convert.
Let’s look at the Reds though.
Anke Preuss in goal; Sophie Bradley-Auckland, the captain, playing right defender in the back three, Niamh Fahey in the middle and Jasmine Matthews on the left; Satara Murray and Leighanne Robe as right-wing-back and left; Christie Murray, Razza Roberts and Laura Coombs across the midfield; Jess Clarke and Kirsty Linnett up front.
On paper that’s a strong 11 with options from the bench (Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Yana Daniels amongst the seven substitutes) and with Niamh Charles and Rinsola Babajide away with England.
To take a closer look at the attack first, throughout the game Liverpool’s threat predominantly came from Satty and Leighanne. The wing backs both providing opportunities for their team mates as well as each other – the Reds first chance just wide of the post from Leighanne after Satty picked out the brilliant run of the ex-Millwall skipper.
Leighanne in particular was one of several players to shine, strongly beating her opposite number on the flank and fighting for every ball. In the 30th minute excellently shaking off her marker to fire in a cross that was cleared out for a corner.
From the corner Niamh had the ball in the back of the net following a scramble in the 18-yard box, but the goal didn’t stand as the referee had blown for a foul in the build up.
Christie was another stand out and favoured amongst supporters afterwards for LFC Women Blog’s Player of the Match. The Scot didn’t stop running and was a constant thorn for the United difference, despite being one of the smallest players on the pitch she seems to win every header and is a great dribbler on the ball.
Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed in the stands and fans quickly began singing her name to the tune of The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’ – other songs that could be heard ringing around the stands were for Leighanne (‘Boom boom boom, let me hear you say Leighanne, Robe’) and Yana Daniels (‘Oh Yana Daniels runs down the wing for me), who came from the bench in the second half.
Yana sprung the game back into life after her introduction, each team looking to lag a little and needing inspiration from somewhere. Cue the Belgium winger skilfully skating past United players, drawing several fouls to earn the Reds free kicks and being a handful for United – who didn’t seem to be able to control her.
If the game had been 10, 15 minutes longer, Yana could have been the difference to the Reds picking up at least a point.
Back in defence Anke put in a sublime performance between the posts and will be a key player for Liverpool heading into the FA Women’s Super League season. Demonstrating her ability and agility to save with her hands and her feet, denying Jess Sigsworth on multiple occasions and producing a point-blank save to stop Leah Galton.
Jasmine also had an excellent competitive Reds debut, strong in the tackle and able to ping the ball up the pitch, providing timely interceptions time after time.
After United had taken the lead so late in the game, it would have been easy for the players to let their heads drop but they chased an equaliser until the end of the 90 minutes plus stoppage time. Unbelievably close to finding it as well, Yana winning a free kick just outside the area and Christie striking the ball off the inside of the post and across – yet agonisingly not over – the goal line.
With no game this bank holiday weekend and keen to keep the players fresh before nine headed out on international duty, the Reds then faced Blackburn in a Friday night friendly.
All credit for the Blackburn victory must be given to the National League side who have so cruelly been denied promotion on numerous occasions and proved on the night what an exciting, attacking outfit they are.
The wet pitch suited the young side with their pacy attackers and they took full advantage as they cruised to a 4-1 win.
Liverpool, for several reasons, changed formation for this game with a flat back four. Leighanne moving across to right back and Jasmine playing on the left – Jasmine driving forward from left back to aid the attack.
Yana also started and looked bright along with Courtney and Jess up front, the trio threatening but ultimately unable to provide a breakthrough for the Reds.
It would be hasty to say this friendly was a waste of time, it provides the team with plenty to work on and plenty will have been learnt in the defeat. The tie also provided opportunities for several younger members of both the first team squad and the wider development squad to be involved.
Amy Rodgers, LFC Women Blog’s Player of the Match on the night, once again showed capabilities beyond her years in midfield and constantly astounds with her maturity on the pitch. Amy capped her performance with a well-taken strike to reduce the deficit in the latter stages of the second half.
Cassia Pike played the second 45 minutes while another youngster, yet to make her first team debut, Lauren Thomas – a Welsh youth international – made her first appearance amongst the substitutes, and although not getting onto the pitch will have learnt a lot from her first experience with the first team squad.
It might have been a tough week but there’s great times coming from this squad… at the end of a storm, there’s a golden sky.
Coming soon on LFC Women Blog… X-REDS: Manchester City vs Leicester City and International Watch: Belgium vs Italy
Image: Lee Prewett