245-day absence ends for Liverpool forward in Women’s 6-goal thriller

It was an eventful afternoon for Liverpool Women as they entertained a crowd of 7,578 at Villa Park with a 3-3 draw against Aston Villa.

Aston Villa Women 3-3 Liverpool Women

WSL (21), Villa Park
May 21, 2023

Goals: Hanson 7′, 70′, Daly 45+1′; Stengel 37′, 62′, Dowie 40′

Matt Beard’s side arrived at Villa Park comfortable in the knowledge that they had already confirmed their safety in the top flight ahead of their penultimate fixture.

Fifth-placed Aston Villa could not climb any further places in the table and it proved a frantic 90 minutes, with six goals and a welcome return to action for Liverpool’s Leanne Kiernan.

The forward was injured on the opening day of the season in mid-September, and the 245-day wait to return finally came to a close after being introduced for the final 32 minutes.

By that time the scoreboard read 2-2 thanks to a topsy-turvy first half, with four of the game’s six goals scored in the space of 39 minutes.

Villa opened the scoring in the seventh minute before Liverpool’s top goalscorer Katie Stengel responded with an instinctive header in the six-yard box for 1-1.

The Reds did not allow Villa to take a breath before Natasha Dowie emphatically found the net just three minutes later to flip the scoreboard on its head.

Unfortunately for Beard’s side, Golden Boot favourite Rachel Daly levelled the scores on the cusp of half time after capitalising on a free run into the box.

The second half proved just as fast-paced but without so many goals, and it was again Liverpool who edged into the lead with Stengel’s second of the day and ninth league goal of the campaign.

Shanice van de Sanden supplied the assist and it needed only a subtle touch from Stengel to steer the header into the net, a brilliant goal for 3-2.

Sadly, the Reds could not hold onto their lead as they paid the price for relinquishing possession in midfield, with Kirsty Hanson weaving her way through the defence before notching a brace of her own.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - Sunday, May 21, 2023: Liverpool's Natasha Dowie celebrates after scoring the second goal during the FA Women’s Super League game between Aston Villa FC Women and Liverpool FC Women at Villa Park. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The final whistle blew for a share of the spoils but Van de Sanden could have been the late hero for the Reds with an audacious long-range lob only narrowly saved by the goalkeeper.

Liverpool host Man United in their final game of the season on Saturday.

Liverpool Women: Kirby; Koivisto (Roberts 58′), Bonner, Matthews, Taylor (Lundgaard 59′), Hinds; Fahey (Van de Sanden 46′), Nagano, Kearns; Dowie (Kiernan 58′), Stengel

Subs not used: Laws, Cummings, Robe, Humphrey, Daniels

Next match: Man United (H) – WSL – Saturday, May 27, 2.30pm (BST)