After enduring a dismal start to August, a fantastic 9-0 victory away at Doncaster Belles has put Liverpool Ladies back in a great position going into the final four games of the Women’s Super League.
Women’s Super League & Continental Cup Heartbreak
Reigning champions Arsenal Ladies were Liverpool’s first opponents after the summer break. In a tie that was screened live on BT Sport, the Londoners came to Halton Stadium, Widnes looking to avenge our 4-0 win over them earlier in the season. Liverpool had built up momentum before the break yet manager Matt Beard warned of complacency prior to this game.
On the night the reds were outclassed by the Gunners, despite a couple of early chances with Natasha Dowie shooting wide and Nicole Rolser also off target. Arsenal went in at half time 2-0 up, Jordan Nobbs opening the scoring and right back Alex Scott adding a second.
For the first ten minutes of the second half Liverpool attempted to control the tempo of the game, Katrin Omarsdottir came on to add more muscle to our midfield and made an immediate difference. Unfortunately it just was not Liverpool’s night in front of goal, leading goal scorer Natasha Dowie earned herself a penalty but Emma Byrne guessed the right way to elude Dowie. Shortly after Jordan Nobbs put the game to bed with her second of the game and Arsenal‘s third.
Four days after the Arsenal defeat the Ladies attention turned to the Continental Cup, as we topped our group in the first stage of the competition we hosted the Semi Final against Lincoln Ladies.
A stark contrast to the Arsenal game, Liverpool attacked from the off – Natasha Dowie put us ahead within a minute after a brilliant pass from Lucy Bronze that cut through Lincoln’s defence.
Liverpool proceeded to dominate the game, creating many chances but England Number 1 Karen Bardsley was in inspired form for the Imps to keep us out.
Lincoln grabbed a second half equaliser against the run of play, new signing Courtney Sweetman scoring after our goalkeeper Rachel Laws couldn’t keep hold of a cross. From then on they sat back to defend, seeming content to wait for penalties.
Extra time again seen Liverpool pepper Bardsley’s goal with the keeper producing save after save to take the game to penalties.
A penalty shoot out is never a great way to settle a game and despite our complete dominance of the cup tie Bardsley saved from both Dowie and Louise Fors, sending us crashing out of the cup.
Back on track
After two defeats in a week Liverpool travelled to the now top of the table Bristol Academy, winning this game would send us back top on goal difference. Matt Beard made two changes to the starting line up, Sarah Quantrill replaced Laws in goal and Katrin Omarsdottir made her first start this side of the season.
Bristol went ahead after wrongly being awarded a free kick, Ann-Marie Heatherson seen her first shot on goal parried away by Quantrill but followed up with the rebound to put the Vixens in front.
Undeterred Liverpool raced 3-1 ahead, Louise Fors scoring a penalty after Nicole Rolser was brought down in the box. Rolser then scored herself on the brink of half time heading in from close range following a Fors corner. Katrin Omarsdottir extended the lead after the break, firing in a brilliant strike from the edge of the 18 yard box.
Given the importance of this game, Bristol made two attacking substitutions bringing on Spanish duo Laura Del Rio and Keka. Del Rio pulled a goal back for Bristol after Quantrill’s goal kick only went as far as the Vixen’s third Spaniard Natalia, the quick thinking forward putting Del Rio through on goal. Not even two minutes later Bristol had equalised, Natasha Harding’s cross into the box met Natalia who made it 3-3.
Into the final 10 minutes and with both sides pushing for a winner, Liverpool captain and centre back Gemma Bonner found herself in space midway through the Bristol half. Bonner superbly struck the ball which went flying past Siobhan Chamberlain to win the game for Liverpool.
Back at the top of the table, next up for the reds was a visit from Chelsea Ladies who like us have made a fair few changes over the last two transfer windows.
Liverpool regrouped after the second goal, Fara Williams in particular a real driving force and catalyst to the Liverpool attack. Williams’ hard work was rewarded shortly before half time, she scored her first league goal for us when her free kick thwarted Chelsea keeper Carly Telford.
Matt Beard switched keepers at half time, Rachel Laws coming on for Sarah Quantrill. Liverpool pressed for an equaliser and found one when Louise Fors’ corner found Gemma Bonner, Bonner’s header was cleared off the line but Nicole Rolser was on hand to tap in.
Liverpool’s joy was short lived when substitute Becky Easton, who replaced injured skipper Gemma Bonner, unluckily sent the ball into the back of her own net.
Credit must go to the reds team spirit, they never gave up the fight. Once again into the final 10 minutes, Natasha Dowie this time with the equaliser – a wonderful diving header from a Nicole Rolser cross. The same two players combined again for Rolser to put Liverpool ahead for the first time and earn a crucial 3 points.
For our final league game in August, Liverpool faced Doncaster Belles at their Keepmoat Stadium. Doncaster’s plight this season has been well-documented, the Belles were unfairly told after just one league game that they would not be retaining their top level status next season. Instead they will play in the newly formed second tier of the Women’s Super League, Manchester City the club replacing them in the top tier.
This game came six days after the Belles were heavily beaten 6-0 by Arsenal, an already demoralised side were then sent down 1-0 in the opening minutes by Gemma Bonner. On 6 minutes Doncaster were reduced to 10 and the reds then ran riot. Both Louise Fors and Natasha Dowie scored from the penalty spot, Dowie added two more to secure a first half hat trick and Fara Williams also scored twice meaning Liverpool completed the first half 7-0 up.
The reds eased up during the second half, Nicole Rolser added to her tally for the season and Liverpool’s new No. 7 Kate Longhurst scored her first Liverpool goal to make it 9-0 in injury time.
The 3 league wins in a row sees us clear at the top of the table, however Arsenal sit 5 points behind us with 2 games in hand.
Natasha Dowie’s hat trick against Doncaster puts her in a great position to collect the Golden Boot come the end of the season, while Liverpool’s Louise Fors and Nicole Rolser are also in the top 5 of the WSL’s goalscoring charts.
Under 19’s excel at the Euros
The Under 19’s European Championships have been taking place in Wales over the last couple of weeks, Liverpool have two players at the tournament representing England – Katie Zelem and Ellie Stewart.
The young Lionesses fought to a 0-0 daw in their first group game against France, Everton‘s Lizzie Durack saving a penalty in the second half. Next up England beat neighbours and host nation Wales to send them into their final group game with Denmark knowing a draw would see them into the semi finals. Zelem scored England’s third and final goal as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over the Danes.
This set up a semi final against Finland, England raced 3-0 ahead at half time with Doncaster’s Jessica Sigsworth adding a fourth in the second half to set up a final against France on Saturday 31st August.
Four years ago Gemma Bonner and Lucy Bronze won the gold medal for England at the U19 Euros. Good luck to Katie and Ellie on Saturday, who will be hoping to retain the trophy!
Hope Powell sacked as England Manager
The major news from the world of Women’s Football this month was that, following a dreadful Euro 2013 campaign, senior England head coach Hope Powell was fired by The FA after 15 years in charge. The search for a replacement is ongoing, Powell’s assistant Brent Hills will take charge of England’s two World Cup qualifiers in September.
Powell had been criticised for taking 6 injured players to the tournament and for leaving talented young players on the bench. Not to mention the absurd decision to leave the league’s leading goalscorer Natasha Dowie at home. Hopefully the new manager will give Natasha a chance to make her mark at international level, along with Lucy Bronze and Gemma Bonner.
WSL Run In
Thanks for reading the Ladies August Round Up, Liverpool Ladies go into the final 4 league games almost certain that a win in each will bring Champions League football next year.
The final fixtures are as follows:
4th September v Doncaster Belles, 7:45pm KO home
12th September v Everton Ladies, 7:30pm KO home
29th September v Bristol Academy, 2pm KO home
Home fixtures are all due to be played at Halton Stadium, Widnes. Adult tickets are £5 and concessions £2.50, tickets available on the gate.
Follow me on Twitter for the latest LFC Ladies news: @LFCLadiesFans