Liverpool Ladies capped an impressive away record in the FAWSL with a 4-2 victory at Birmingham City, making it 6 wins out of 7 on the road (not including the two FA Cup wins at Aston Villa and Sunderland).
For the final away game of the season Liverpool Ladies travel to Stratford-upon-Avon to face last seasons runners up Birmingham City.
Midweek Arsenal narrowly beat Chelsea 1-0 in the London derby to further decrease the points difference between ourselves and them. The Gunners are now 2 points behind us in the league with a game in hand, this makes each of our 4 remaining games a must win if we are to challenge until the end.
Liverpool go into this game on the back of a thumping 9-0 win away at Doncaster Belles, the landslide victory coming after two narrow 4-3 victories and giving our goal difference a welcome boost.
Prior to this game Liverpool conceded 6 goals in 2 games, leading to a half time substitution during the Chelsea game. Rachel Laws then remained in goal against Doncaster to keep our first clean sheet this side of the season.
Natasha Dowie and Fara Williams continued their fine run of form over the last couple of games, Natasha bagged a first half hat trick over the Belles. New number 7 Kate Longhurst also scored her first Liverpool goal after coming on as a substitute while brilliant German Nicole Rolser also added her 8th goal of the season and Liverpool’s 8th of the game during a more subdued second half.
Another game, another team, another 4 goals scored, not a bad habit to be getting into. Liverpool made sure we go into the summer break at the top of the table with yet another emphatic 4 goal performance. Captain Gemma Bonner sat this game out through illness, Lucy Bronze partnering Whitney Engen in defence and Amanda Da Costa stepping into the role of team captain in her absence. Katrin, who missed the Everton game with a hamstring injury, started the game on the bench with Jess Holbrook in the starting 11 again. Rachael Laws our on loan goalkeeper also returning to the starting line up.
Both teams had early chances to go ahead, Liverpool almost immediately getting a goal through a Fara Williams corner then straight up at the other end a Birmingham corner was cleared by Nicole Rolser. Lucy Bronze did well all game keeping Rachel Williams quiet, pressuring her into passing the ball wide instead of shooting at goal and the resulting Birmingham cross was comfortably collected by Laws. Jess Holbrook continued her good form from the derby win and provided a great ball to Natasha Dowie who fired a shot on target but this was saved by blues keeper Mary Earps. Dowie’s next strike at goal hit the post and rebounded to Rolser who confidently slotted the ball into the net to put Liverpool in front. Birmingham equalised shortly afterwards when Kerys Harrop made the most of us not clearing the ball from a corner. Corina Schroder fresh from opening her Liverpool goal scoring account against Everton almost doubled her tally but her effort was saved by Earps. Just before half time Lucy Bronze capped an impressive first half performance with a powerful headed goal to ensure the reds went in 2-1.
With the teams back out for the second half, Liverpool perhaps spurred on by the news Bristol had beaten Lincoln meaning we had to win this game to stay at the top of the league. Rolser was pulled down just outside the Birmingham box but Fara Williams, playing probably her finest game in a red shirt yet, overhit her free kick. Dowie then almost went through on goal but her first touch let her down and the blues keeper collected the ball. Birmingham then had a free kick in a dangerous position which was taken well forcing a save from Laws. Somehow Birmingham then failed to score when a goal bound strike from Jo Potter bounced between both posts before being cleared, the travelling blues supporters thought it had gone in. Lucy Bronze continued her great performance by dispossessing Rachel Williams again and going on a run past a couple of Birmingham players into the other half. Jess Holbrook almost claimed her first Liverpool goal after a fantastic Fara Williams ball found Rolser on the right, Rolser passed it back to the waiting Holbrook who unluckily hit the post. Whitney Engen then raised a chuckle from the crowd with some choice language when she was nearly sent flying by the blues winger. Into the last ten minutes of the game, Birmingham noticeably tiring and being run ragged by our attack, Natasha Dowie took her goals tally for the season into double figures when she deflected an ambitious Fara Williams shot into the back of the net. Schroder then hit a great ball to Rolser who added insult to injury for Birmingham and scored our fourth goal of the game.
Liverpool team: Laws, Easton, Bronze, Engen, Schroder (Riccio), Williams, Holbrook, Rolser, Da Costa (C)(Katrin), Fors, Dowie (Billson). Unused subs: Gibbons, Chappell, Keryakoplis
POTM: Lucy Bronze
So that’s it, the first half of the season gone already. We now break for the European Championships which kick off in Sweden on the 10th July, the final on the 28th July. Hopefully there will be more than one Liverpool player in the England squad, Fara Williams our only player certain of a place. Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze I think have done enough to deserve a call up and hopefully their inclusion in the recent England training camp is an indicator Hope Powell has them in her plans. Another Liverpool player who has done more than enough to receive a call up is the league’s top goalscorer Natasha Dowie. I really hope England have been taking notice of her performances for us and give her a well deserved spot in the squad. Katrin Omarsdottir will likely receive a call up for the Iceland team and Louise Fors will hopefully have caught Pia Sundhage’s eye and get a call up for host nation Sweden.
Our first week back after the break will be a busy one, we host Arsenal on Sunday 4th August before our Continental Cup semi final takes place 7th August against Lincoln in a game also to be played at Halton Stadium. Then the following weekend we travel to Bristol for a crucial top of the table clash.
Thanks for reading these blogs this side of the season and for following @LFCLadiesFans on twiter. I’m away for a week now but when I come back I will be posting a mid season review on here so keep an eye out for that. Also on twitter I will be providing updates on our players progress at the Euros.
Liverpool’s final game before a two month break for the European Championships sees us welcome Birmingham City to Widnes’ Halton Stadium tomorrow evening. Birmingham have had a poor start to the season by their standards while Liverpool have enjoyed an incredible first half exceeding most expectations.
Birmingham currently lie 5th in the FAWSL table with just one win out of their 5 league games and have failed to find the net in 2 of those. Their last outing seen them beaten 2-0 at home by second in the table Bristol Academy. During the transfer window they lost striker Eni Aluko to Chelsea and are without two first team players Karen Carney and Rachel Unitt through injury. With Aluko gone and Carney out Birmingham have looked to England striker Rachel Williams to provide their goals and she has not disappointed hitting 7 in 10 games. Most if not all of the blues goal threat comes from Williams and the majority of their attacking play comes down the right through Kirsty Linnett. Blues keeper Hourihan will undoubtedly be kept busy throughout the 90 minutes. Birmingham have already qualified for the 2013/14 Champions League however they really need to target a win against us if they want to qualify again and break into the top four of Chelsea-Arsenal-Bristol-Liverpool.
While Birmingham have scored 11 goals in 10 games this season, our goal crazy reds have scored 27 in 11. Natasha Dowie of course is top scorer with 9 goals but 14 of the 27 have come from midfield showing the diversity in our team. Interesting that with Dowie contributing 9 goals (2 more than Blues striker Williams) we are not over-reliant on her to provide the goals – as Birmingham seem to be with Williams. When Williams has an off day for Birmingham they suffer, the Everton game a perfect example of this. Liverpool have scored at least once in every game played thus far this season and average just under 2 and a half goals per game. While our attack is clearly in top form our defence is a strong foundation to build upon, Whitney Engen and Gemma Bonner forging a brilliant partnership in the centre of defence and we were very unlucky to concede during the midweek derby on the counter attack. Matt Beard has said this week midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir will miss this weekends game through the hamstring injury picked up on international duty so Jess Holbrook will likely start again.
Liverpool’s first game after the break will be against Arsenal, this is the rearranged home fixture from earlier this season and will be played on Sunday 4th August @ 2pm KO. Also that week on Wednesday 7th August will be our Continental Cup semi final against Lincoln, again at Halton Stadium, 7:30pm KO.
Thanks for reading, after the Birmingham game I will of course have a match report up and within the next couple of weeks hope to have a mid season review up! Please keep following on twitter @LFCLadiesFans – despite being no Liverpool games to follow we will be bringing you updates on our players at the Euros!