Liverpool Ladies returned to winning ways in April, beating both Birmingham City and Manchester City in 2-1 home victories either side of a 1-0 defeat away at Chelsea Ladies.
Matt Beard’s formation change has proved to be a winning formula, stationing Becky Easton in front of the back four as a defensive midfielder and allowing Fara Williams to ply her trade further up the pitch.
Asisat Oshoala has also hit form, the Nigerian international and nominee for the BBC’s inaugural Women’s Player of the Year award has scored twice and assisted twice this month for her club, along with 2 goals and 3 assists while on international duty with Nigeria in their 8-0 thrashing of Mali.
The FA Women’s Super League
Liverpool Ladies 2 – 1 Birmingham City
In March the club suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time since August 2013, this forced a formation change to 4-1-4-1 to provide more solidity in the centre of the Reds midfield which was missing the injured Katrin Omarsdottir.
With Fara Williams in a more advanced position alongside Kate Longhurst in the centre of midfield, Natasha Dowie up front and new signings Line Smorsgard and Asisat Oshoala on left and right midfield respectively; Liverpool looked a real force throughout the 90 minutes, frustrating the Birmingham players who struggled to find their rhythm.
Oshoala put Liverpool the lead on the stroke of half-time, excellently volleying over the line after connecting with Gemma Bonner’s long ball forward over the top of the Blues defence.
In the second half Oshoala turned provider, whipping a cross in from the right for Fara Williams to score her 3rd goal past Birmingham in 3 games and extend Liverpool’s lead to 2-0.
Aoife Mannion capitalised on a mix-up at the back to pull a goal back from an extremely tight angle, but the Reds seen the game out with ease, despite Longhurst being stretchered off after a nasty collision with Remi Allen.
Chelsea Ladies 1 – 0 Liverpool Ladies
On Sunday 19th April, Liverpool travelled to Staines to take on league front runners Chelsea and former winger Gemma Davison. Davison made the move back down south in the winter transfer window and has enjoyed a fine start to life in a blue shirt, scoring 5 goals in 6 appearances.
Davison found herself somewhat stifled by her old team mates on the afternoon, with Gemma Bonner and Martha Harris effectively cutting her off from strike partner Eni Aluko and Harris in particular impressing with one first-half interception/
Liverpool were creating plenty of chances and winning corners with clever play down the wings, however failed to capitalise on these before Chelsea took the lead; Laura Coombs with a through ball, Aluko latching on and lobbing the ball first time over Libby Stout who had come off her line.
Aluko almost gifted Liverpool an equaliser minutes later after handballing Fara Williams’ free kick in the penalty area, the England international stepping up to the spot and sending the keeper the wrong way but the ball bouncing back off the woodwork.
The Reds left London disappointed at not taking at least a point from the game, despite being arguably the better team over the 90 minutes.
Liverpool Ladies 2 – 1 Manchester City
Back at home for the 4th league game of the season and with 3 points to their name, Liverpool faced another ex-player with former Player of the Season Lucy Bronze lining up against the Reds in the sky blue of Manchester City.
It was to be another masterclass in attack from Oshoala, as she ran the City defence ragged and the no.14 once again scored the opening goal; Williams swinging in a corner and Oshoala knocking the ball in off her knee after it slipped through City keeper Alex Brooks’ hands.
City have Everton Ladies Nikita Parris on loan for the 2015 Women’s Super League season, Parris seemingly always manages to find the back of the net when playing against Liverpool and this evening being no different as she nodded home an equaliser from Izzy Christianson’s cross.
The brief City resurgence would be short lived as Natasha Dowie knocked Martha Harris’ throw to the feet of Oshoala, her cross finding the head of Line Smorsgard who grabbed the game’s winner with her first goal in a Liverpool shirt.
Beating City lifts Liverpool to 3rd in the league table on 6 points, Arsenal sit in 2nd on 10 points with Chelsea currently leading the pack on 12 points. Next up for Liverpool they face Notts County away on Sunday 10th May, this will be the final league game before the mid-season break for the Women’s World Cup.
The middle of April sees the league take a short break for international action, with a number of Liverpool Ladies players involved with their countries.
18-year old defender Emilie Revitt received a first time call-up to Wales’ senior squad as they faced Slovakia twice in 3 days. The first game saw Wales record a 1-0 victory over their visitors but 2 days later they slipped to a 2-1 defeat despite taking the lead midway through the first half. Revitt almost made her debut, ready to take to the pitch only for the assistant referee to inform the Wales management they couldn’t make any more substitutes.
Liverpool also had 3 players away with England, although only Fara Williams made an appearance in the Lionesses final home game before this summer’s World Cup. England beat China 2-1 with first half goals from Portland Thorns’ Jodie Taylor and Reading’s Fran Kirby. Gemma Bonner and Natasha Dowie were both unused substitutes.
Mollie Green and Katie Zelem were also away with England U19s as they qualified for the European Championships in Israel, England beat Switzerland 3-1 and Northern Ireland 9-1 before drawing 2-2 with Norway to qualify from the top of their group.
Unusual circumstances surrounded the 2-2 draw with Norway, with England originally losing the game 2-1. Arsenal‘s Leah Williamson had scored an injury-time equaliser from the penalty spot but the referee wrongly ruled this out for encroachment instead of ordering the penalty to be retaken. UEFA had the two teams replay the final few minutes of the game again days later, beginning from the penalty which Williamson coolly stepped up to slot home and secure the important qualifying point.
England’s U17s also qualified for the U17 European Championships in Iceland, with the help of the Reds Kess Elmore and Mayumi Pacheco beating Hungary 4-1 and Holland 2-0 to qualify from the top of their group.
Asisat Oshoala then starred for Nigeria as they beat Mali 8-0 in the second leg of their All African Games qualifier, Oshoala played a part in 5 of the 8 goals, scoring a brace and assisting 3 team mates. Nigeria progressed 9-1 on aggregate.
Liverpool Ladies development squad endured a tough run of games in April, beaten 2-0 away at Manchester City in the league after goalkeeper Rachel Darbyshire was injured in the warm-up, the Reds had no second keeper in the match day squad meaning forward Jess Davenport went between the posts. A week and a half later they once more boosted an already impressive goal difference with an 8-0 victory over Durham WFC, Mollie Green netting a first half hat-trick and 5 other players on the score sheet.
The team also faced Birmingham City in the League Cup semi-final, winning the original game 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw after extra time. However a refereeing error forced the tie to be replayed 2 weeks later, Darbyshire was still missing through injury with under-17 keeper Jess Carberry stepping up and Green also missed out after picking up an injury in training during the week. Once more at the end of the 90 minutes the score was level at 2-2, but Birmingham scored twice in extra time to send themselves into the final at the second time of asking and at Liverpool’s expense.
Along with Carberry making her debut, April also seen a new signing join Liverpool’s impressive tally of youth internationals; Kirsty Hanson joining from Manchester United’s Centre of Excellence, the striker is a Scotland U17 international and made her first appearance during the league defeat away at Manchester City.
The focus will now turn back to the league for the Reds, they currently sit 1 point behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand with 5 games left in total, starting this Sunday at home to Aston Villa.