Heather Carroll continues her look back at the Liverpool Ladies’ triumphant 2014 WSL season by describing the games on their title winning season.
On Sunday 12th October, Liverpool Ladies FC claimed their second Women’s Super League title in astonishing fashion.
Starting the day in 3rd place between both Chelsea Ladies and Birmingham City, the scores in each game somehow all going Liverpool’s way and leading to winning the title on goal difference. The delay in the WSL trophy being couriered from Manchester to Liverpool making the victory all the more sweeter as the players celebrated in disbelief.
The reigning champions had suffered a tough start to their title defence, with key first-team player Nicole Rolser and new signing Lucy Staniforth both suffering ACL injuries on the eve of the campaign. At one point Liverpool had no less than 8 first-team players out through injury. Full credit to Matt Beard, the coaching staff at the club, the remaining players and the youth players who stepped up and dragged Liverpool over the finish line in first place.
In the second part of my Season Review, I take a look back at 5 key games that helped Liverpool retain their status as champions of the Women’s Super League.
Chelsea Ladies 0 – 0 Liverpool Ladies, Sunday 20th April
Liverpool’s first away game of the season came just 3 days after beating league newcomers Manchester City 1-0.
Prior to the game Liverpool had 3 players out injured – Martha Harris joining Lucy Staniforth and Nicole Rolser on the sidelines. During the game the reds also lost Kate Longhurst and then goalkeeper Libby Stout.
Although the game finished 0-0, it was not through a lack of trying from either side – Gemma Davison hitting the post for the visitors in the first-half with the rebound going just behind Natasha Dowie.
The home side almost nicked the 3 points minutes from time when Eni Aluko broke through the Liverpool defence, the England striker putting her shot wide of substitute keeper Danielle Gibbons’ post.
Lucy Bronze was excellent throughout the game at centre-back, making a number of crucial interceptions to ensure Liverpool continued a run of 3 games with no goals conceded.
Come the final day of the season the vitality of these interceptions become all the more transparent, as did Chelsea‘s inability to score past Liverpool in both league games.
Liverpool Ladies 1 – 0 Everton Ladies, Wednesday 16th July
With 4 league games in the first half of the season and 10 in the second, the majority of Liverpool’s key games fall in the latter half of the campaign.
The third Merseyside derby of the year came after 2 good cups wins for Liverpool, a resounding 7-1 victory at Durham and beating a tough Doncaster Belles side 3-2.
Despite Everton failing to win a single league game thus far they yet again proved hard to break down, with 10 players behind the ball and attempting to catch Liverpool on the break with Nikita Parris on her own up front.
It took a touch of class from Corina Schroder by the left corner flag to hold off a couple of blue shirts and put the ball into the box – eventually falling to Kate Longhurst who finished past Rachael Brown-Finnis to score her first goal of the season.
Liverpool held on for the win, while Everton continued their run of no wins until the end of the season and eventually being relegated to the Women’s Super League 2.
Birmingham City 1 – 2 Liverpool Ladies, Sunday 21st September
Out of the 3 teams battling it out for the league title, it was Liverpool Ladies who had arguably the toughest of run-ins out of themselves, Birmingham City and Chelsea Ladies.
It was a tough start to the game for Liverpool who initially seemed to struggle in the centre of the pitch, Fara Williams’ presence was paramount to regaining their composure and helping the reds to find their rhythm.
Once Liverpool were on top Martha Harris had a good first-half attacking down the left, her resilience at the edge of the box leading to Amanda Da Costa tapping home from yards out.
Leading 1-0 and looking to be comfortably seeing out the win, Libby Stout made a rare mistake – her mis-hit clearance landing at the feet of ex-Liverpool striker Hannah Keryakoplis, who finished well into the empty net.
As Gemma Bonner picked up the devastated Stout, Fara Williams spotted Becky Spency off her line from the restart, taking just one touch before expertly lobbing the ball past the unsuspecting blues keeper.
Birmingham were livid, claiming that the referee had no signalled for the restart however their protests were in vain, the goal stood and Williams’ flash of genius gave Liverpool a deserved 3 points.
Arsenal Ladies 3 – 3 Liverpool Ladies, Sunday 5th October
Liverpool Ladies penultimate game of the season was a perfect display of the reds never-say-die team spirit.
2-0 down within 10 minutes and looking as though the title was slipping further and further away, Matt Beard made a half-time substitution bringing on Gemma Davison for Martha Harris and changing the formation.
The reds began to look more cohesive as a unit, Davison linking well with Kate Longhurst in attack and Fara Williams sitting further back in front of the defence from where she was easily able to dictate the pace of the game.
It was Williams who pulled a goal back just before half-time, a wonderful free-kick swung around past Emma Byrne to make the scoreline 2-1 at the break.
Despite Liverpool starting the second-half well it was Arsenal who would be next to score. Casey Stoney re-extending their lead from a corner, her second goal against Liverpool this season.
Becky Easton put in a towering performance at centre-back, keeping Liverpool in the game as Arsenal looked buoyed by their goal and were looking for a 4th.
The introduction of Nicole Rolser was a welcome sight for supporters of Liverpool – the German winger making her first appearance since suffering an ACL tear. It didn’t take long for Rolser to relight her partnership with Natasha Dowie, the striker teeing her up to score in her return and make the score line 3-2.
Into the 93rd minutes and looking like all hopes of retaining the title were over, Gemma Davison burst through the central defenders and slotted the ball low past former team mate Byrne. In doing so probably scoring the most important goal of Liverpool’s season and giving the club the slimmest of chances as the league entered it’s final day.
Liverpool Ladies 3 – 0 Bristol Academy, Sunday 12th October
On the final day of the league season Liverpool Ladies began the day in 3rd, 3 points behind Chelsea Ladies who were away at Manchester City and 1 behind Birmingham City who were entertaining Notts County. Therefore to be crowned champions Liverpool needed Chelsea to lose, Birmingham to lose or draw and for themselves to win by 2 or more goals.
Going into the game Liverpool knew to rely on results elsewhere they first had to take care of their own and score a few goals.
How the game remained goalless at half-time is a mystery, Katrin Omarsdottir having a shot blocked off the line and Lucy Bronze hitting the crossbar amongst a whole host of other opportunities.
Up at the other end despite Bristol not particularly threatening the Liverpool goal, Nina Frausing played her best game in a red shirt snuffing out no less than 6 Bristol attacks in the first-half. Any time Bristol attempted to cross the halfway line, Frausing was there in the way.
At half-time as news filtered through that Chelsea were 2-0 down at City and Birmingham were losing to Notts having seen a penalty saved, what seemed to be an impossible dream at the beginning of the day began to look like a real possibility.
Out fighting for the second-half and knowing that they were still very much title contenders, Liverpool maintained a high level of attack with Gemma Davison and Lucy Bronze surging forward and into the box at any given opportunity.
It was Davison who pulled the ball back to Natasha Dowie, who made no mistakes 15-yards out to finally open the scoring. A second soon followed after Lucy Bronze produced her signature move with a run down the right wing, cutting into the box along the touchline and scoring from a tight angle to double the reds lead.
Soon it was 3, top scorer Dowie winning a penalty which there was never any doubt of Fara Williams scoring from the spot.
Liverpool had now done their bit and as the referee blew the final whistle the reds faced an agonising wait for the other 2 games to finish, Birmingham had drew level with Notts and Chelsea had pulled a goal back – one more goal in either game would see the title headed to a new home.
Jubilant celebrations soon erupted from one of the boxes, the word spreading across the crowd and onto the pitch that Liverpool Ladies were indeed once again Champions of England following a surreal final day of league action.