This Sunday Liverpool Ladies and Bristol Academy will battle it out to be crowned Champions of the 2013 FA Women’s Super League.
Sunday 29th September 2013, 2pm
Select Security Stadium, Widnes
For the first time in 10 years, the winner of England’s top tier in Women’s Football will not be Arsenal Ladies. Following a 3 point deduction after fielding an ineligible player in their league game versus Liverpool on 3rd August, Arsenal‘s reign at the top has come to an end and they are destined to finish outside of the Champions League spots. That honour instead falls to ourselves and Bristol who will now feature in the Champions League 2014/15 campaign, for Liverpool this is the first time in our history we will be competing against Europe’s elite.
Manager Matt Beard has overseen a largely successful season, a near-complete squad overhaul and an entirely new starting 11 has changed the Ladies fortunes. The previous two WSL seasons seen us finish bottom of the table, last year we managed just 19 goals in 18 games while this seasons top scorer Natasha Dowie has so far scored 19 herself.
After the briefest of slumps after the mid-season break for the European Championships, Liverpool have won their last 6 games on the bounce scoring 27 goals on the way.
As mentioned earlier Natasha Dowie of course leads the way up front with an impressive 19 goals, as well as being the reds top scorer she is also on course to win the league’s Golden Boot following a superb hat trick in her last outing against former club Everton. Dowie’s closest competition for the Golden Boot comes from within the club, German midfielder Nicole Rolser has 10 strikes to her name and Liverpool even have the third placed top scorer with super Swede Louise Fors on 7. If you get the chance do check out Fors’ free kicks, especially from the 4-2 win over Birmingham City earlier this month.
The attacking trio of Dowie-Fors-Rolser along with playmaker Amanda Da Costa has been a revalation this season and must strike fear into the heart of any defence. Behind them in midfield are Icelandic Katrin Omarsdottir and Fara Williams, both playing in the centre and able to dominate the midfield by controlling possession.
The main starting 11 has rarely been tampered with this season, goalkeeper Rachael Laws found herself dropped to the bench following our Continental Cup exit to Lincoln but has since worked her way back into the side and has put in a number of good performances. Particulary during our home tie with Doncaster Belles were the Belles piled on the pressure during the second half, Laws was there time and time again commanding the 18-yard box.
In the heart of the Liverpool defence is captain Gemma Bonner, winner of the WSL goal of the month for August with a fantastic strike against Bristol, who leads by example from the back alongside US international Whitney Engen. The full-back’s Lucy Bronze and Corina Schroder essentially play as wing backs and regulary assist the attack, Schroder’s brilliant cross led to Natasha Dowie’s first goal over Everton.
A strong team of course comes from a strong squad, on the Liverpool bench and making numerous appearences is right-back Becky Easton who is reliable when called upon and a strong tackler. Jess Holbrook another reliable player, when called upon earlier this season due to injury Holbrook was more than capable to plug the gap left by Katrin Omarsdottir and was unlucky not to claim her first Liverpool goal when a thundering strike bounced back off the post.
Summer signings Kate Longhurst and Sarah Gregorius have also had their part to play over the closing stages, Longhurst scored her first Liverpool goal in the 9-0 victory over Doncaster Belles and Gregorius has made a number of notable appearences, both as a substitute and in the starting line-up.
Our opponents Bristol Academy are the league’s comeback Queens, last weekend they found themselves 3-0 down at Doncaster Belles and in danger of surrendering the league title to us. Bristol then staged an outstanding comeback, scoring 4 goals in the second half to ensure they go into this final day fixture with a chance at league glory.
Bristol’s attack is of similar quality to ours, Spanish striker Natalia has been the Vixens leading lady this term and has 12 goals to her name in 17 appearences. Natalia is helped by Natasha Harding who is argubly Bristol’s Player of the Season and Ann-Marie Heatherson along with fellow Spaniard Laura Del Rio.
They also boast England international Siobhan Chamberlain in goal who, particulary during the first half of the season, has kept Bristol at the top of the table. Despite losing The FA Cup Final 3-0 to Arsenal in May, Chamberlain was many people’s choice for Player Of The Match producing a number of eye-catching saves to stop the score becoming a landslide.
Bristol have been the surprise team in the league this season, many expected great things from Liverpool due to the investment from the club. Chelsea have surprisingly faltered, as have Birmingham City and Arsenal had a couple of shock results – most notably their defeat at the hands of Liverpool at the Emirates. Bristol Academy quietly went about their business, looking to Spain following the success last season of Laura Del Rio and landing Natalia and Keka.
Both teams deserve credit for the way they have performed this season and both could easily walk away from Widnes on Sunday league champions. For Liverpool no matter what happens this campaign has been a massive success, from finishing last place in the previous two seasons to be going into the final game needing just a point to take the title from London is a huge achievement and one the club and supporters can be proud of.
On 3 occasions this season the Ladies have enjoyed a gate of over 1,000 supporters, the atmosphere is no doubt enriched when this is the case and it would be a fantastic end to the season to have a large crowd in to get behind the team for the final game. Bristol Academy are a well supported club and their vocal fans will be in attendance at the weekend.
Anfield Season Ticket holders gain free entry to all Ladies home games, alternatively Adult tickets are just £5 with concessions £2.50 and children free with a paying adult.
There is a function room at the stadium as well as a number of pubs nearby that will no doubt be showing the mens game straight afterwards at 4p.
BT Sport will also be showing the game live.
Thanks for reading, for news leading up to the big game please follow @LFCLadiesFans.