Liverpool Ladies faced the toughest month of their season yet in September, falling to 3 straight league defeats and hit with the news that at the end of the year manager Matt Beard will be stepping down.
Midway through the month however came perhaps Liverpool’s brightest performance of the campaign so far, as they put 4 past Bristol Academy to progress to the Continental Cup semi-finals where they will face Notts County at home on Sunday 11th October.
Prior to the Reds final home game of the league campaign, the club announced that at the end of the year Matt Beard will be leaving Merseyside to manage Boston Breakers in the USA.
Having taken over in August 2012 and inheriting a team that twice finished bottom of the table, Matt turned Liverpool’s fortunes around after being given the opportunity both to bring in top-class players – Natasha Dowie, Fara Williams and Whitney Engen to name just a few – and to turn Liverpool Ladies into a full-time professional football club. The youth set-up at the club was also overhauled and is now beginning to reap the benefits with success at youth and players coming through the ranks to play for the first team.
Under Matt, Liverpool won back-to-back league titles – the first silverware in the club’s history – and twice qualified for the UEFA Champions League. In 2013 they reached the semi-finals of the Continental and The FA Cup.
FA WOMEN’S SUPER LEAGUE
5th September, Arsenal Ladies
First up in September, Liverpool welcomed Arsenal Ladies to the Select Security Stadium for a fixture they had yet to win in each of the previous 4 years (despite being unbeaten in 3 away).
Unfortunately, a first home win against the Gunners would have to wait.
Natasha Dowie had an early chance go the wrong side of the post after a cutting through ball from Katie Zelem, while new Arsenal goalkeeper Sara Van Veenendaal was quick off her line to prevent Ashley Hodson getting a shot in and saved from both Rosie White and Gemma Bonner.
Unable to capitalise and thwarted by Van Veenendaal, Arsenal scored twice in the second half after missing a penalty minutes before the break. Dominique Janssen with the first from a free kick – Lucy Staniforth almost scoring immediately from the restart with an audacious effort – and Jordan Nobbs adding the 2nd.
10th September, Manchester City
Five days later Liverpool made the short trip to the Academy Stadium to face Manchester City and once again would fall to a 2-0 defeat.
An interesting line-up change seen Ingrid Ryland start on the left side of the defence, where she would face former Reds defender Lucy Bronze head on. While on the opposite side Martha Harris was tasked with marking Nikita Parris and Demi Stokes, holding her ground well.
Despite initially defending resolutely, Liverpool conceded as City were quick to break down the right with Bronze who cut the ball up for Izzy Christianson to fire past Libby Stout.
Coming under fire again in the early stages of the second half, Stout produced a brilliant save at close range from Natasha Harding however was unable to prevent the Welsh international getting herself on the score sheet – Harding converting at the near post after a cross in from Georgia Stanway.
27th September, Chelsea Ladies
The final of September’s defeats would also be the heaviest, to find a matching score line you have to go as far back as September 2011 as a pre-Matt Beard Liverpool were beaten 4-0 by Arsenal.
Liverpool’s early chances – Ryland and Bonner hitting the post and Zelem seeing a strike tipped over the crossbar – went unconverted and Chelsea first punished this after Ji So-Yun expertly controlled a Gemma Davison cross to make it 1-0.
It would be 2-0 at half-time as Eni Aluko set up summer signing Fran Kirby and Chelsea grabbed the killer 3rd goal with 35 minutes still to play – Aluko intercepting a back pass and beating Stout one-on-one.
So-Yun opened the scoring, and the PFA Player of the Year would complete it. Davison again the provider for the game to finish 4-0.
13th September, Bristol Academy
September wasn’t all doom and gloom, Liverpool have been on form during the Continental Cup campaign this year and on this Sunday afternoon in Bristol the Reds put 4 past their old title rivals in the quarter-finals of the competition – Dowie netting all 4.
The no.9’s first goal came from a spot kick, White fouled in the box and Dowie stepping up to slot the well-taken penalty over the line. But Bristol soon had an equaliser, Jade Boho-Sayo turning away from her marker outside the box and unleashing a strike into the top corner.
Level at half-time, Dowie looping home Ryland’s cross shortly into the second-half to put Liverpool back in the lead with her 40th goal in a red shirt – and she wasn’t done yet.
Having been caught offside on a couple of occasions in either half, once Dowie became wise to the high line the Bristol defence was employing she scored twice more. The first after White slipped her through and the second coming when Line Smorsgard won the ball, played Dowie forward and the striker showing great composure to net her 4th goal of the afternoon.
Despite the first team playing a summer season, the Development Squad and Centre of Excellence teams both follow a September – May league calendar with a winter break during December and January.
The Development Squad won the league in 2014/15 and this year are being coached by former assistant coach Vicky Jepson. A host of players have returned from last season along with a trio from Manchester United’s Centre of Excellence and a number of players stepping up from Liverpool’s U17s.
The team won their opening game against Notts County with new girl Emily Bradshaw scoring twice and Olivia Wild netting the 3rd. In their next match away at Aston Villa, the Reds took an early lead through Kirsty Hanson however Villa pulled a goal back and it finished 1-1.
Hanson, Mollie Green, Maz Pacheco Bethany Donoghue, Rachel Darbyshire and Shannon Beckwith have all been named in Liverpool’s Champions League squad for 2015/16.
As well as the cup semi-final to look forward to in October, Liverpool Ladies play Brescia CF of Italy in the Champions League Round of 32. The away leg will be played in Brescia on Wednesday 7th October, with the home leg one week later at the Select Security Stadium, Widnes 6:30pm kick-off.
Liverpool’s final league game of 2015 saw them suffer a disappointing 4-2 defeat to relegated Bristol Academy. Beard’s side finished second from bottom on 13 points.