Liverpool continued their pre-season unbeaten run this evening with hard-earned victory over WSL2 newcomers Aston Villa.
While Liverpool enjoyed the majority of possession and the best of the attacking football, credit must be given to Villa’s strong defensive play – particularly during set pieces.
Following the announcement midweek that winger Nicole Rolser was joining Lucy Staniforth on the side-lines with a long-term injury, development squad striker Ashley Hodson was named on the bench.
Libby Stout was handed her first home start in the Liverpool goal. Lucy Bronze partnered Gemma Bonner in the centre of defence, with Martha Harris at right back and Corina Schroder on the left.
Natasha Dowie started up front while Amanda DaCosta returned to the starting line-up after missing out last time through illness, either side of DaCosta were Gemma Davison and Kate Longhurst.
Liverpool started the game confidently passing the ball around in the midfield, an early Lucy Bronze long ball forward towards Natasha Dowie caught out by the Villa defence on the edge of the box signalling our attacking intent.
In the first of a number of Liverpool corners, Kate Longhurst went close after Gemma Bonner headed the ball into her path. Another fine game for Longhurst who’s first goal of 2014 somehow continues to elude her! Again inside the first ten minutes, good interplay between her, Dowie and Fara Williams led to Longhurst attempting a volley but the shot sailed over crossbar.
Seconds earlier Corina Schroder was unlucky not to add to her derby goal last June, the German full-back finding herself in the opposition box and attempting a couple of strikes but there was no way through the staunch Villa defence.
Liverpool’s Young Player of the Season Lucy Bronze had another outstanding game, this time filling in at centre-back. A number of times in the first half Villa broke down the left side, each time Bronze coming out to comfortably dispossess and clear before they could get the cross in.
Amanda DaCosta is a critical part of the Liverpool midfield, her absence during the Doncaster friendly was noticeable and the American playmaker certainly made up for it tonight linking up brilliantly with Natasha Dowie and Kate Longhurst and with a number of shots going close to opening the scoring in the first half.
Despite the Liverpool onslaught, it was Aston Villa who opened the scoring. Jade Richards with the fine finish from a free kick just outside of the 18-yard box.
The reds didn’t let the goal hold them back and continued to press high up the pitch, putting the defence under pressure. Their hard work paid off after Corina Schroder and Gemma Davison combined well on the left to put the ball out for a corner, Fara Williams swung the corner into the 6-yard box and the ball was bundled into the back of the net off a Villa defender. At half-time the teams went in level.
Back out for the second half with no changes for Liverpool, Liverpool continued the way they left off. The player of the match for the Doncaster friendly was new signing Gemma Davison; Davison impressed again this evening displaying her pace and skill perfectly in midfield – setting up an early chance when working her way through a number of players to square the ball wide to Williams. The eventual cross going across the face of goal and out.
Fara Williams was instrumental in the games winning goal with a fantastic pass picking out Katrin Omarsdottir, the Icelandic confidently slotting the ball past the Villa keeper to put Liverpool in front.
Natasha Dowie showed during the second half why she is important to Liverpool in more ways than scoring goals, last season’s Player of the Year finding herself out wide on the left wing, taking on the Villa defender to put a storming cross across the 18-yard box that narrowly missed Longhurst.
The bad weather in the second half slowed the tempo of the game, along with a number of substitutions. Becky Easton replaced Schroder, a trialist came on for Gemma Bonner with last month’s game-winner Ellie Stewart partnering her in the centre of defence after replacing Martha Harris. Lucy Bronze moving out to left back.
Katie Zelem made an appearance, replacing Amanda DaCosta just after an audacious effort to lob the keeper from near the half-way line went just wide. Ashley Hodson, Liverpool Ladies’ development squad’s leading goal scorer, also came on towards the end of the game. Hodson did have the ball in the back of the net after a Dowie cross, however a free kick was given against Dowie for offside.
In the dying minutes of the game, Villa had a free kick blocked by the Liverpool wall and the trialist almost scored from a corner with her header going wide.
Full-time in Widnes: Liverpool 2 – 1 Aston Villa. A fair score line for the visitors following an impressive defensive display.
POTM: Fara Williams, a fantastic game in the heart of midfield and a sensational pass to set up the winning goal.
Liverpool: Stout (Gibbons), Harris (Stewart), Bronze, Bonner (C)(trialist), Schroder (Easton), Omarsdottir, Williams, Davison, DaCosta (Zelem), Longhurst (Hodson), Dowie
In 21 days’ time Liverpool will kick off their 2014 season with an FA Cup tie at Sunderland (Sunday 13th April).
For any friendlies in the meantime keep an eye on the official twitter. A week on Sunday (6th April) the development squad welcome Notts County to Halton Stadium in a 2pm KO, all dev. Squad games are free entry and a great way to see the future talent.
Thanks for reading!