Monday, 7 November 2016

MATCH REPORT: LIVERPOOL LADIES 3 ARSENAL LADIES 5

SCOTT Rogers first season in charge of Liverpool Ladies came to a disappointing end on Sunday evening in Widnes, the Reds beaten 5-3 by Arsenal Ladies to finish fifth overall in the FA Women’s Super League.


Satara Murray capped her hugely impressive second season at the club by opening the scoring with her first goal in a red shirt however a quick-fire brace from Danielle Carter put the visitors ahead.

Jordan Nobbs and Chloe Kelly scored for the Gunners either side of Shanice van de Sanden’s neat finish in the second half, then former Liverpool player Asisat Oshoala struck in injury time shortly before Caroline Weir volleyed home a late consolation in the high-scoring tie.

Ashley Hodson retained her place up front and was joined in attack by Natasha Harding and, making her first start, Niamh Charles; in midfield Katie Zelem partnered Weir, the duo just ahead of Kate Longhurst in front of the back four of Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Mandy van den Berg – Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.

Hodson and Charles were looking to link up in the early stages of the game, first Charles found herself in space and clipped the ball through to Hodson yet her cross towards Harding was intercepted.

Then Charles once more got the better of Arsenal’s Emma Mitchell, skipping around her marker and attempting to thread Hodson through on goal but Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal was quickly off her line.

At the other end of the pitch it was Arsenal that were carving out the more clear-cut opportunities, Jodie Taylor glancing a header over the crossbar and Chamberlain stopping Danielle van de Donk’s long range volley from crossing the line.

Liverpool’s persistence on the right wing would then pay off, Murray swinging in a fierce cross that spun over van Veenendaal and into the top corner – the full-back’s reaction to opening the scoring, her first goal for the club nonetheless, a mixture of surprise and amusement and providing one of the highlights of the season.

Unfortunately for the Reds this lead was short lived as Danielle Carter scored twice in quick succession with two stunning strikes from outside the box to put the Gunners ahead.

Both sides would have chances before half time – Weir set up by Zelem to find the back of the net from six yards but the linesman had already flagged for offside, then Harding was inches away from connecting with a cross from Charles.

Harding was also called upon in defence following a Fara Williams set piece, the ball bouncing around in the area and van de Donk prodding it towards goal only for Harding to be well-positioned to block and then kick start a Liverpool counter attack.

In the second half Liverpool also began with a counter attack, Weir intercepting an Oshoala effort this time and the Reds racing forward only for Leah Williamson to intercept Harding’s cross.

The Reds were struggling to break through the Arsenal defence with Josephine Henning also getting between Harding and the ball after Hodson and Weir combined to get the ball in the box.

Arsenal then capitalised through Jordan Nobbs, who extended the Gunners lead to 3-1 by yet another strike from outside the box.

Liverpool were quick to react, Rogers making a double substitution shortly before the hour mark as Shanice van de Sanden and Rosie White replaced Niamh Charles and Ashley Hodson.

van de Sanden had an immediate impact, breaching the defence to square the ball to Weir who had made a run into the middle of the area only for van Veenendaal to produce a good save.

Just two minutes after entering the action van de Sanden pulled a goal back for Liverpool, Weir lacing a perfect pass that split the defence wide open and van de Sanden finishing across her international team mate.

The Dutch winger could have had a hat trick within five minutes, one strike hitting the side netting and then beaten to the ball by van Veenendaal after chasing another Weir pass.

Liverpool looked revitalised and Murray was rampant on the right, twice winning the ball deep in the Arsenal half to create chances for the Reds – first the full back stealing the ball from Carter, getting the ball to van de Sanden who found White but her strike was saved and then earning a corner which van Veenendaal punched away.

White also forced the backtracking goalkeeper into another save after an ambitious chipped effort from the edge of the box.

However it would be another substitution that would swing the game back into Arsenal’s hands, youngster Chloe Kelly recently back from a loan spell with Everton Ladies coming from the bench to convert an Oshoala cross and re-extend the Gunners lead to 4-2.

Former Liverpool attacker Oshoala also found the back of the net herself in injury time, before Weir struck a consolation volley in the 95th minutes to ensure she finished the year as the Reds top goalscorer.

Despite the final day defeat this was only the Reds second league defeat since May with six wins and three draws in that time; including an away win at Arsenal and two ties with league champions Manchester City – Liverpool the first side both to score past City and to take points from them.

Rogers has built an impressive squad, playing exciting football that can and will challenge with a couple of new additions.

The FA Women’s Super League will revert to a winter season from September 2017, to bridge the gap between now and then a one-off Spring Series will be held from February to May; each team will play each other once.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner ©, Ingle, van den Berg, Longhurst, Zelem (Lundh), Weir, Harding, Charles (van de Sanden), Hodson (White)

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Satara Murray

Monday, 10 October 2016

MATCH REPORT: DONCASTER BELLES 1 LIVERPOOL LADIES 3

THREE MAGNIFICENT STRIKES ensured Liverpool Ladies returned to winning ways in Doncaster, effectively relegating the winless Belles as the Reds returned to Merseyside with a 3-1 victory.

Doncaster took an early lead when Rhiannon Roberts nodded a set piece into the back of the net. However two audacious strikes from Caroline Weir put Liverpool ahead at the break and Tash Harding sealed the win with a sublime hit of her own in the second half.


After suffering a knock during the warm up at Birmingham, Mandy van den Berg returned to the back line alongside Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner and Sophie Ingle - with Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.

Ashley Hodson also came into the starting eleven to lead the line with Shanice van de Sanden and Natasha Harding either side of her; Laura Coombs, Katie Zelem and Caroline Weir completing the line up in midfield.

Liverpool struggled during the opening stages to get a grasp on the game, this despite Harding creating the first chance of the tie following lovely link up play between Coombs and van den Berg. Harding flew down the left wing to cross towards Hodson but stand-in Belles goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse beat her to the ball.

The Reds conceded a set piece with Zelem well-positioned on the edge of the box to bat the first away before Rebecca Rayner sent a great opportunity wide of the mark after slipping through the defence to chase a loose ball.

Rayner was looking lively for the home side and sent another effort over the crossbar shortly later, the youth player teed up by former LFC midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir.

Just eleven minutes in Liverpool were forced into a substitution, Coombs unable to continue after a collision with Emily Simpkins and replaced by Kate Longhurst.

Liverpool were having some luck down the left through van den Berg pressing high up the pitch and getting the ball into the box, from one such move the ball was cleared only as far as Zelem who struck wide from distance.

Doncaster took the lead when a harsh free kick was given against van den Berg out wide, the resulting set piece swung in by Simpkins and headed past Chamberlain by Roberts.

Simpkins then went for goal herself from another free kick, a move straight from the training ground with Omarsdottir and Carla Humphrey appearing to argue about who was to take it before Simpkins sent a shot wide.

Spurred on by the Doncaster goal, Liverpool began to settle into a rhythm and soon found themselves on top; van den Berg hitting another excellent ball that almost fell for van de Sanden and Hodson only for Moorhouse to be aware of the danger and off her line to collect.

A tight offside decision was given against the Reds when Harding when one-on-one with Moorhouse, Zelem had slipped the winger through only for the assistant referee to flag for offside.

This preceded a period of domination by Liverpool, at one point the ball bouncing around the Doncaster box with each of van de Sanden, Harding, Hodson and Weir denied by the plucky Belles defence.

Liverpool displayed patient build up play despite trailing, each failed attack would end back with Bonner and the ball once more played forward through the great link up play of Longhurst and Zelem.

Zelem has an eye for a great pass and sprayed one wide here for van de Sanden to chase, the winger getting behind the left back to flash the ball into the box - Hodson there but closed down and Doncaster able to clear.

The Reds patience was eventually rewarded with a superb brace from Weir.

Her first coming after Zelem clipped the ball around Omarsdottir to find the Scottish international in space, Leandra Little arrived a second too late to close her down and Weir scooped the ball under Moorhouse to put Liverpool level.

Then, on the brink of half time, the Reds were in the lead - Ingle this time providing Weir with the ball and Weir turning to fire an even more impressive and unstoppable strike past the 'keeper with her left foot.

Liverpool went in at half time with a deserved lead.

Out for the second half quick out the blocks with van de Sanden racing down the right and cutting the ball back to Zelem, the midfielder hit the ball sweetly from 20 yards but straight at Moorhouse.

Zelem also won a free kick in the opening minutes of the second half, Weir sending it in with her left foot and finding Zelem who headed wide.

Then Longhurst went on a bursting run all the way into the Belles box where she went down calling for a foul, her protests were waved away by the referee and Hodson's shot was closed down.

It was all Liverpool and Doncaster were now the ones struggling to get a foothold, unable to cope with the Reds passing.

Following Hodson's shot being blocked the ball was immediately won back by Zelem who tapped it to Weir, she turned to find Longhurst who in turn passed back to van den Berg - short, quick passes again going back to the defence until one of the back line could find an opening further upfield.

Liverpool's greatest chance to put distance between themselves and the Belles came just four minutes into the second half, Ingle playing the ball forward, Harding dummying and van den Berg crossing to her Dutch international team mate van de Sanden. van de Sanden's shot was blocked and the ball fell to Weir who knocked it back to Hodson who struck the post.

van de Sanden’s second half performance was excellent and the winger was unlucky not to be on the scoresheet herself after Harding cheekily nutmegged her marker to tee up van de Sanden but she was denied by Moorhouse.

The Reds soon found the back of the net again, a loose ball falling to Harding outside the area and Doncaster slow to react as Harding lifted the ball around several players and over the line to put Liverpool 3-1 up.

Despite the slow start Liverpool played some of the best football they've played this season towards the end of the first half and during the majority of the second, a well-earned three points going into the season's final game - and what could be a fight for third - against Arsenal Ladies on November 6th,

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (C), Ingle, van den Berg, Coombs (Longhurst), Zelem, Weir, van de Sanden, Harding (Green), Hodson

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Caroline Weir

Thursday, 6 October 2016

X-REDS: Derby Day in Freezing Fylde


Previously on X-Reds: 


AFC Fylde are a club with big ambitions. At the newly built £18m stadium that seats up to 6,000 supporters a flag hangs with the words "2022: Stop us if you can" denoting the owners intent to have the men's side rise through the pyramid and become a National League club within six years.

The women's side at the club also harbours these aspirations, currently competing in the FA Northern Premier League under Fylde Ladies after taking over the successful Preston North End Women at the end of the 2015/16 season.

Fylde has inherited a squad that finished second in the league, narrowly missing out on a play off to gain entry to the Women's Super League, and were also runners up in the FA Women's Challenge Cup back in April.

The team are led by former Liverpool Ladies assistant manager Luke Swindlehurst, who returned to the club last year after winning the FAWSL1 with the Reds in 2013 and working with promoted Sheffield F.C.


Luke is joined at Fylde by former Liverpool Development duo Yasmine Swarbrick and Eve Kennerley; Yasmine joined Preston from Liverpool in 2014 while Eve spent time at Manchester City before recently signing for Fylde.

Fylde had enjoyed a flying start to their season and were unbeaten in seven games heading into the Lancashire derby against, also unbeaten, Blackburn Rovers Ladies. The knowledge that this tie was also a battle for top spot still early in the season adding extra excitement.

Rovers themselves have an ex-Liverpool player in their ranks, title winning midfielder Jess Holbrook wearing number six and in the starting line up.

It was a bitterly cold evening at Mill Farm, meaning that multiple cups of tea were required in order to not freeze. 


The game kicked off and immediately descended into a typical derby match, with bruising challenges and a fast paced opening seeing both sides with opportunities to take the lead.

First Fylde had a chance as Rovers 'keeper Danielle Hill allowed a corner to slip through her heads, the ball landing at Swarbrick's feet but the former Liverpool youth player was denied her second goal in as many matches as Hill recovered.

Up at the other end Flyde's Laura Walker cleared a fierce volley off the line, Walker well-positioned to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Fylde were passing the ball well, Jenna Carroll with an impressive long range pass to pick out the run of Argentinean Agustina Barroso. Barroso crossed towards Swarbrick, who was leading the attack, yet the goalkeeper beat her to the cross.

While at Liverpool Swarbrick played predominantly as a wide attacking midfielder, during this game she played as the lone striker and was impressive. Her strength and hold up play combined with nifty footwork allowing her team to join the attack and press forward.

At the 19th minute mark supporters in the stands initiated a minutes applause in memory of former Fylde number 19 Zoe Tynan, who passed away in August. The club have also retired her shirt.

Before Blackburn took the lead, captain Charlotte Farrell went down clutching her knee in the centre circle as Fylde looked to hit Rovers on the counter attack. The captain was unable to continue and was replaced by Alice Forshaw.


Shortly before the half hour mark Rovers took the lead through Faye McCoy. The powerful midfielder capitalised on a mix up at the back from Fylde to prod the opening goal over the line.

Before half time Barroso had an effort from fifty yards, one that sounds speculative but in reality wasn't far off as the defender had spotted Hill off her line.

Into the second half it was again Blackburn that threatened, Fylde number one Danielle Brown produced a string of excellent reaction saves from set pieces - while Swarbrick was denied again by a good save at the opposite end of the pitch.

Barroso picked up a knock and was replaced by Kennerley, Kennerley was barely on the pitch for a minute before the frantic efforts of both sides resulted in a goal.

Former Manchester City winger Danielle Young swung a left footed set piece into the box and Carroll converted to level the score at 1-1.

Unfortunately for Fylde, fifteen minutes later McCoy bagged her second of the game to put Rovers back in the lead from another set piece.

From this there would be no coming back, despite a late effort from Swarbrick that went just inches wide of the post, and Fylde were defeated for the first time this season.

Overall the trip to Fylde was a thoroughly enjoyable one with talented players on both sides, if you wish to catch either of Fylde or Blackburn in action over the winter find their upcoming fixtures here:


The commitment shown by players, staff and supporters lower down the leagues is admirable and deserving of more support and awareness for the sacrifices they make to be involved in the game. As an example, speaking with Yasmine and her mum Carol after the game yesterday they explained how she works full time, then coaches Barrow's u12 side before making a four hour round trip for training with Fylde.

This dedication is matched by players, staff and supporters across the Premier League, and of course the Women's Super League, and never fails to remind me why following women's football is an inspiring experience.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

REPORT: BIRMINGHAM CITY LADIES 2 LIVERPOOL LADIES 1

It was a frustrating afternoon all round for Liverpool Ladies as their eight game unbeaten Women's Super League run came to an end away at Birmingham City.


The Reds had gone behind shortly into the second half when former defender Corina Schroder scored a goal on her debut. Katie Zelem then levelled the score from the penalty spot before Kerys Harrop headed past Siobhan Chamberlain to seal the Birmingham win.

Liverpool were forced into a late line up change as Mandy van den Berg took a knock during the warm up and was replaced by Martha Harris, the full back making her first appearance since late April following injury.

Harris was joined in defence by an otherwise unchanged back line of Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner and Sophie Ingle with Chamberlain in goal.

Ahead of them Zelem, Laura Coombs and Rosie White made up the midfield while Caroline Weir, Emma Lundh and Shanice van de Sanden led the attack.

The game was a scrappy affair, Birmingham always a tough side to play against with their direct style and Liverpool found it tough to break the Blues down.

Clear cut chances were few and far between during the first half, Birmingham with a series of corners that were well defended by Liverpool and England youth international Chloe Peplow seeing a

When the Reds found space to play around Birmingham, the fast counter attacking football that we've grown accustomed to over the course of the season was on display; Murray slipping a ball through to the chasing van de Sanden yet Blues goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley was quick off her mark to stop the attack.

Then, following a corner, Zelem prodded the ball to Weir who in turn looked up to pick out van de Sanden, the winger clipping a placed pass towards Lundh and the number 9 meeting the ball in the middle but Baggaley again was off her line to block the shot.

Liverpool enjoyed a brief period on top and looked certain to break the deadlock midway through the half, Murray showing excellent desire chasing what had looked to be hopeless loose ball yet winning the Reds a throw near the corner flag; White linking up with Murray from the throw in but unable to find Coombs with her cross.

After that White had a low drive deflected an inch wide of the post, Coombs swinging the resulting corner into the middle of the 6-yard box and Baggaley stretching to tip the set piece onto the crossbar.

The game lulled slightly before once more sparking into life before half time, Coombs unleashing an effort from distance that was punched away by Baggaley and Kirsty Linnett spurned a golden opportunity for Birmingham at the far post following a Freda Ayisi cross.

In the early stages of the second half the Reds defence came under pressure, a series of neat passes amongst the back four calmly getting rid of the danger.

However it soon returned in the form of Schroder, the German was making her Birmingham debut after a long injury lay off and poked a pass from Linnett over the line with her left foot to put the Blues 1-0 ahead.

The lead was short lived as Tash Harding came from the bench to replace Lundh and was immediately running at the Birmingham defence, beating two players to cut inside and get the ball to White - the New Zealander brought down inside the box to earn a penalty which Zelem confidently stepped up to take and scored.

Unfortunately for Liverpool this reprieve was also temporary as Birmingham retook the lead shortly afterwards, Kerys Harrop rising to nod Jess Carter's long throw past Chamberlain and into the back of the net.

Liverpool had a couple of more chances to take a share of the points before the 90 minutes was up, Bonner narrowly heading a corner wide and van de Sanden also fizzing a drive wide of the mark.

Still, Birmingham held onto their lead to take all three points and into next week's Continental Cup final against newly crowned league champions Manchester City on the back of a win.

LIVERPOOL LADIES Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (C), Ingle, Harris, Coombs, Zelem, White (Longhurst),  van de Sanden, Lundh (Harding), Weir (Hodson)

PLAYER OF THE MATCH Martha Harris

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

International Reds - September 2016

It's been a long three weeks since Liverpool Ladies were last in action, the Reds beat Reading Women on September 1st courtesy of super sub Katie Zelem's superb 85th minute winning goal.

A number of Reds have been away on international duty during the break between FA Women's Super League games; Zelem selected for England u20s duty and heading to Los Angeles, Mandy van den Berg and Shanice van de Sanden also crossed the Atlantic for the Netherlands friendly with the United States in Alanta.


Whilst a quartet of Brits have been competing in the final round of Euro 2016 qualifiers - Tash Harding and Sophie Ingle with Wales, Caroline Weir making history with Scotland and Siobhan Chamberlain keeping a familiar clean sheet with England.

Netherlands


Mandy van den Berg led a talented Netherlands side out in Atlanta for the Euro 2017 hosts friendly with the United States.

There were several familiar faces amongst the starting line up with the Arsenal trio of Sari van Veenendaal, Dominque Janssen and Danielle van de Donk and of course Shanice van de Sanden.

It would be van de Sanden that opened the scoring in what was an excellent first half of football - van den Berg's clearance at the edge of the 18-yard box nodded on into the path of the speedy winger. van de Sanden added Meghan Klingenberg to her list of left backs she's beaten this year to charge forward and smash the ball past Alyssa Naeher to put the Netherlands ahead.

The US had an equaliser before half time when Liverpool supporter Carli Lloyd found the back of the net and took the lead shortly into the second half in a controversial manner, van den Berg looked to have been fouled by Tobin Heath as she converted Christen Press' cross past her own goalkeeper but the referee appeared not to have seen this and let the goal stand.

Allie Long rounded off the scoring on the night, making the score 3-1 USA in front of over 15,000 supporters.

England u20


Katie Zelem was selected by Mo Marley to represent England after an impressive season so far with Liverpool, the young midfielder has scored 4 goals so far in 2016 in a red shirt - the latest a wonderful left footed hit against Reading.

England u20s played Brazil, USA and South Korea in the NTC Invitational Tournament, emerging as overall winners with 2 wins and 1 draw.

Zelem started and played the full 90 minutes in each of the wins over Brazil and USA, Aston Villa's Sarah Mayling struck an 89th minute winner against the Brazilians and England also beat USA by the same scoreline.

Coral Haines of Birmingham netted the winner against the Americans, with Zelem involved in the build up:

With just over 10 minutes remaining, Liverpool midfielder Katie Zelem drove through the middle and saw her long-range shot deflected wide to Sarah Mayling, the match-winner against the South Americans.
The Aston Villa forward put in a low cross from the right-hand side of the box and Haines tapped it home from close range to give the Young Lionesses another three points and an unassailable lead in this round-robin tournament. (source)
England had already wrapped the tournament up before the final game against South Korea, Zelem coming off the bench in the 62nd minute but the young Lionesses were held to a goalless draw.


England


Siobhan Chamberlain donned the England no.1 shirt for the final home Euro 2017 qualifier at Notts County's Meadow Lane Stadium against Estonia, although the Reds stopper had little to do over the course of the 90 minutes.

Arsenal's Danielle Carter marked her second cap with a second hat trick while Jill Scott and Karen Carney also found the back of the net as England cruised to a 5-0 win.

For the following game Chamberlain was amongst the substitutes as England finished their qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory in Belgium, Nikita Parris and Carney with the goals.

Scotland


Caroline Weir and Scotland made history during the international break by qualifying for their first major tournament.

Portugal - a side containing former Red and double title winning midfielder Amanda Da Costa - beat Finland on Friday meaning that the Fins could not finish higher than Scotland and confirming their place at next summer's Euros in the Netherlands.

This meant that Scotland travelled to Iceland for their final qualifier having already qualified.

Three years earlier Weir had made her international debut in Iceland and in the build up to the game a good article went up on the Scottish FA's website that is well worth a read here: Weir set to return to where it all started.

Here's what Weir had to say on her time at Liverpool so far:

“Liverpool is a huge club and I’m delighted to be playing there at the moment,” she said.

“It’s a good set-up and we’re seen as equal to the men so we get to do some stuff with the first team too.

“Liverpool itself is quite a small place so you learn pretty quickly what the club means to the city.

“At the moment we’re sitting fourth in the league with three games to go.

“Our manager brought in some new players so we’ve built over the course of the season. It’ll be interesting to see where we end up.”

Scotland went on to finish their qualifying campaign on a high as Jane Ross struck twice to secure a 2-1 win.

Wales


Wales fell short of qualifying for Euro 2017 despite a strong finish to their campaign, a 3-0 over Israel with goal from Helen Ward (2) and Charlie Estcourt on Thursday preceded a good performance against Austria in a 0-0 draw this evening.

Sophie Ingle captained the Welsh side in both games while Tash Harding also started both games alongside her Liverpool team mate.

The two were singled out for praise by commentators during the draw and you can read highlights from the Reds duos performances below:

Full report: Strong performance from Wales as Austria qualify

"There was a moment of controversy on 13 minutes when Austrian goalkeeper Zinsberger handled the ball outside the area when under pressure from Natasha Harding, and Greek referee Eleni Lampadariou punished the offence with a yellow card.

Zinsbereger was tested from the resulting free-kick by Jess Fishlock, but with Wales visibly lifted, it was Harding that came close to opening the scoring after 28 minutes but she failed to find the target from a ball fired across the area with one of the best of the few first-half chances."

"Despite the lack of goals, there was no shortage of entertainment as both sides went in search of the advantage late in the game, but Wales survived a late scare with captain Sophie Ingle again displaying all her defensive qualities to deny the visitors from leaving with maximum points."

Full report: Wales dominate their way to victory over Israel

"On 33 minutes the lead was doubled when Helen Ward scored her second of the game after latching onto a ball from Rachel Rowe. Wales continued to dominate, and Nadia Lawrence headed over from a Natasha Harding cross as the opening half came to a close, but it remained 2-0 as Wales took a comfortable advantage into the break."

"It would prove to be another dominant half from Wales, and on 59 minutes Estcourt extended their lead after some excellent work from Natasha Harding in the Israeli area with a fine finish.

Wales were good value for their lead and should have increased their advantage on 85 minutes when Harding was fouled in the area by Michal Ravitz.

Despite being booked previously, Ravitz escaped further punishment, but Jess Fishlock was denied by Shamir as the goalkeeper guessed the right way to deny Wales a fourth goal."

Liverpool Ladies return to FAWSL action this Sunday away at Birmingham City in a 2pm kick off at Solihull Moors FC.

NWSL v FAWSL

Recently I took a break from watching a lot of football in England to watching a lot of football in America, taking in four women’s league games in Boston, New York and Chicago.

Having attended women’s football, or soccer, games in the U.S. before and witnessing first-hand the fanfare surrounding the national team at last summer’s World Cup in Canada, the level of support and interest in the sport is both impressive and enviable.


As a quick example, two of the games I caught were in Boston, to watch as a side coached by former league winning Liverpool manager Matt Beard –and featuring a host of ex-players – was supported by 3,743 and 4,379 fans.

The latter figure being a sell out and made all the more eye-catching because it came at the end of  a 7 match streak wherein the team had failed to pick up a win, and made all the more sweeter as Boston went on to secure a 1-0 victory. This courtesy of a familiar face as Natasha Dowie netted the winner on her debut.

Back at home while I was away Liverpool hosted a crowd of 643 at the Select Stadium in Widnes for a 0-0 draw with Notts County.

Despite the gulf in attendance figures both sides boast passionate supporters who sing throughout and bang drums to create an atmosphere. When Boston scored the fans even set off flares, though I doubt that would go down well in Widnes.

Why is it though, that America can pull in these larger crowds? The average league attendance for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in 2016 is over 5,000. To compare to the FA Women’s Super League (FAWSL) in England, the average league attendance last year was 1,076.

A couple of months ago on TheAnfield Wrap we recorded a women’s football special alongside Liverpool LadiesDevelopment Squad coach Vicky Jepson that prompted an email from subscriber Barry Beattie, who is currently coaching at high school level in the United States.

In his email Barry highlights just how seriously the game is taken over there, the volume of professional coaching companies and how from a very young age there is a clear pathway.

That pathway leads to high school students securing scholarships to play at the country’s top colleges as the institutions search for the next big star, the next Alex Morgan or Hope Solo.

Indeed while at the games there does seem to be a large amount of families and youth soccer teams, wearing a mix of their own club apparel or that of the team they’re watching and a huge number of U.S.A shirts – and these are generally emblazoned with names of the women’s players.

This is something that is creeping in in the game in England, especially over the last year the focus is on getting local girls teams and schools to the games and now in the stands there are a number of players represented on the back of fan’s replica shirts.

The success of the national team in America must also play a big part with the aforementioned Morgan and Solo being household names. Wearing my United States shirt in a Boston diner resulted in the owner initiating a conversation about the team’s chances in the upcoming Olympics.

The USWNT, as they are called, have won 3 World Cup titles since its inception in 1991 and 4 Olympic gold medals out of 5 (finishing runners up in 2000); up until the Rio Olympics had finished in the medal positions in every tournament entered.

Another interesting point Barry made was that women’s soccer is the main sport for girls in the States, whereas the sport competes against basketball, baseball, American football and lacrosse for boys.

The pathway in England is also becoming more defined; just this last year the Centre of Excellence system has been revamped and has been replaced by the Regional Talent Club programme, Liverpool one of  13 clubs to be awarded Tier 1 status.

Currently at Liverpool there are 80 players enrolled in age groups from under-9s to under-16s, at which stage players are considered for the club’s development squad.

Whereas in America the options for playing full-time after college are limited and the pay poor, the top clubs across England have turned fully professional over the last couple of years. Liverpool pioneered the move back in 2013, allowing players to quit their day jobs to become full time professional footballers.

US goalkeeper Hope Solo slammed conditions the players face in the NWSL in a blog post on her website in July. The number 1, currently on a 6-month ban for calling the Swedish national team cowards after the US were beaten by the Swedes at the Olympics, was writing in the wake of a media storm as Western New York Flash played Seattle in a league fixture on an absurdly narrow pitch.

Her post highlighted that although America leads the way in some aspects, widespread support of the national team, league attendances and live streaming of every league game on YouTube to name a few, overall the professionalism of the league leaves a lot to be desired.

To gain a license to play in the FAWSL clubs must adhere to a strict set of guidelines and the teams that win promotion to the top tier must ensure they can meet these or they remain in the league below.

This hasn’t been without its controversies, shortly after the 2013 season began The FA announced the introduction of a second tier to the WSL and that Doncaster Belles would be demoted with Manchester City Women taking their place.

Manchester City had met the requirements for a WSL1 license whilst Doncaster had not, rightly or wrongly this careful management by The FA has encouraged the steady rise of professionalism and football as a career for those now progressing through the RTCs.

From 2017 the FAWSL will bechanging to a winter league format, aligning it with the rest of the football pyramid and The FA hope the move will bring a new audience – wanting to double attendances, inspire participation and ultimately bolster England’s chances in tournaments.

This change should also improve the scheduling of the league, which has been poor this season. Teams have 16 league games, then at least one in each of The FA and Continental Cup; if a team gets knocked out in the first round of the each Cup, then they’d play just 18 games between March and November.

At present Liverpool Ladies have three games left to play between now and November 6th – including a 4 week gap between the penultimate and final game of the season.

As a supporter of the women’s game in general I hope this move does help to increase the support, and when comparing the two leagues against one another I can’t help but believe each could take something from the other. If the two leagues were to merge, we’d likely have the perfect women’s league in England.


The streaming of live NWSL games, the crowds inside the stadiums and stadiums that are usually the right size for the crowd they draw, matched by the professionalism of the FAWSL and the management of the English league - with promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid pending – could help to further grow the game.

Friday, 2 September 2016

REPORT: READING WOMEN FC 0 LIVERPOOL LADIES 1

For the second time in as many matches Liverpool Ladies grinded out a 1-0 FA Women’s Super League victory, the Reds now unbeaten in 8 as the league enters its final quarter.


Their hosts Reading Women FC had seen a penalty saved and a strike cleared off the line before substitute Katie Zelem came from the bench, firing an unstoppably ferocious effort past Mary Earps and into the top corner in the 85th minute.

There was just one change to the side that had beaten Doncaster Belles, Rosie White returning to the starting line up in place of Shanice Van De Sanden and Liverpool otherwise unchanged.

It was Reading that started quickest out the blocks targeting the left of Liverpool’s defence, Rebecca Jane steering wide before sending a cross into the box looking for Emma Follis and Jade Boho-Sayo yet Siobhan Chamberlain rose highest to claim.

Jane and Boho-Sayo drifted wide again minutes later to exchange passes, this time Mandy Van Den Berg threw herself in front of Boho-Sayo’s attempted cross. The subsequent throw in led to a shot being deflected narrowly wide and Chamberlain reached the corner first.

Liverpool’s defence has conceded just twice since letting in 6 away at Chelsea back at the start of May and they were forced to be at their best as Reading, without a win yet this campaign, threatened again.

Gemma Bonner deflecting Follis’ strike out for a corner, this headed away by Mandy Van Den Berg at the near post and once more hit goal wards only to again be thwarted by Bonner.

The Reds, wearing the toxic green third strip, played a patient game - one which was praised by Natasha Harding following the win over Doncaster – and grew into the half here.

Rosie White was linking defence to attack brilliantly with Kate Longhurst and Laura Coombs in the middle, White sending a looping ball towards the 18-yards box that reached Harding; Harding flicked this on with her head with Emma Lundh in pursuit but she was beaten to the ball by Earps.

White’s excellent turn midway through the first half during a Liverpool counter attack allowed her to reach Lundh, the Swedish number 9 charged forward however was forced wide and Reading were able to clear their lines.

While Reading started the half strongest, it was Liverpool that ended on top – Earps plunging to stop Harding and at full stretch to tip Coombs’ long range shot onto the crossbar.

Despite plenty of endeavour from both sides half time came with neither finding a breakthrough.

Re-emerging for the second half the game continued at the same speed, Rachel Rowe’s cross prevented from meeting its target by the superb Bonner and Chamberlain first punching away a Boho-Sayo shot, then stopping a Reading set piece regardless of seeing it late.

Caroline Weir ensured Liverpool threatened through a set piece of their own, a great ball from the half way line chased by both Harding and White but Reading managed to scramble the ball away.

Ultimately it was Scott Rogers’ substitutions that turned the game in Liverpool’s favour; Shanice Van De Sanden was introduced in the 61st minute and proved a handful for the thus-far sturdy Reading defence.

The game opened up as Van De Sanden began to carve out opportunites, getting behind the back line and cutting the ball up along the 6-yard box.

Shortly after her introduction a penalty was awarded to Reading, the reasoning unclear but appearing to be given against Chamberlain for bringing down a forward. Unnerved the Reds stopper dived to her right to deny Lauren Bruton from the spot.

Then Harding found Van De Sanden, the ball tapped to the feet of Coombs who could only watch as her strike blazed over the crossbar.

Reading went close again, Melissa Fletcher’s cross bouncing back off the post and along the goal line only for Bonner to somehow knock the ball out for a corner – Chamberlain caught the resulting corner.

It was end-to-end action at Adams Park, Liverpool countering in droves with the strength of Coombs and Longhurst in the midfield key against Bruton and Remi Allen.

Van De Sanden was joined off the bench by Katie Zelem and the two linked immediately, Coombs playing a one-two with Van De Sanden at the edge of the area and sending the ball to Zelem who missed it by inches.

The game reached a terrific crescendo, replicating the feeling of a cup final with both sides going all-out and Reading goalkeeper Earps twice saving from Weir before eventually being beaten by Zelem’s hit; the young midfielder unleashing her shot that flew past Earps and into the far right corner to send the travelling Reds in the stands wild.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner ©, Ingle, Van Den Berg, Longhurst, Coombs, White (Zelem), Lundh (Van De Sanden), Harding, Weir


PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Laura Coombs

Saturday, 27 August 2016

REPORT: Liverpool Ladies 1 Doncaster Rovers Belles 0

LIVERPOOL LADIES extended their unbeaten run in the FA Women’s Super League on Saturday evening with a 1-0 win over bottom-placed side Doncaster Rovers Belles.


The plucky Belles have now played 9 league games without a win, yet have 3 games in hand over Sunderland who sit 6 points above them – and play the North East club on Thursday.

The Reds made a blistering start to proceedings in Widnes, the only change to the 11 that featured in the last-minute Cup defeat to Birmingham seeing Emma Lundh come in for Katie Zelem; the no.9 slotting seamlessly into the attacking 3 alongside Natasha Harding and Shanice Van De Sanden.

Caroline Weir played just ahead of Laura Coombs and Kate Longhurst in the middle, with the latter providing cover for the back line of Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Mandy Van Den Berg – Siobhan Chamberlain in goal.

For the opening 45 minutes in Widnes Liverpool threw everything at the Belles.

Every play building from the back with the first attack forged when Van Den Berg intercepted a pass, finding Coombs who sprayed the ball wide to Harding.

Harding in turn picked out Weir, who looked to have stumbled and lost the ball yet recovered well to produce an impressive turn on the edge of the box however unfortunately fired her cross at goalkeeper Nicola Hobbs.

Hobbs was the star of the first half, twice denying the energetic Van De Sanden – first with her foot after the Dutch winger was set up by Lundh and then bravely off her line to stop Van De Sanden at point blank range.

Liverpool also peppered the Doncaster goal with shots from a series of corners midway through the half; Hobbs tipping an Ingle header over the crossbar, Harding prodding the ball from close range yet seeing it deflected wide and Van De Sanden firing over.

The corners were punctured by a first Doncaster chance of the game, this falling to former Liverpool and two-time title winning midfielder Katrin Omarsdottir, playing up front here for the Belles, who sent a left footed hit wide of the post.

Following this it was back to the other end of the pitch. Liverpool changing tactics on a corner and having Weir and Coombs play a quick one-two for Weir to cut in and shoot narrowly over from the corner of the area.

Before the half time whistle Omarsdottir went closest to breaking the deadlock, Liverpool initially looked to have cleared from the danger only for a sneaky through ball to worm its way back through the Reds defence.

Omarsdottir was quick to pounce yet Chamberlain was quicker to react, diving to push the ball clear and preserve her clean sheet.

With the final move of the half Harding received the ball inside the Doncaster box with her back to goal and closely marked by a defender; she held the ball well to allow for Lundh arriving only for the no.9’s effort to be blocked.

Barely two minutes into the second half and Liverpool broke the deadlock.

Harding finding herself in space 20 yards from goal and lifting a perfectly weighted shot across the face of goal and into the back of the net, the Welsh vice-captain has been a stand out for Liverpool in the second half of the season and the goal capped another good performance.

The Reds had plenty of opportunities to double the advantage, a fierce ball in from the right was parried away by Hobbs and the resulting corner met by the head of Murray but stopped from crossing the line a yard from goal.

Substitute Katie Zelem was unlucky to watch her set piece float inches wide while Doncaster themselves threatened from a free kick, Leandra Little rising highest to nod the ball into the safe hands of Chamberlain who held it well on the line.

Liverpool’s Murray was kept busy throughout by Omarsdottir on the right, shielding the ball out for a corner early in the second half and winning her battles with the Doncaster no.7.

One of the Reds biggest chances to score a second came when Murray read a Doncaster move superbly to come and steal the ball on the half way line, the midfielder given no chance and Murray having the time to look up and clip a placed pass into the path of Lundh – her shot blocked by a defender.

Into the final minutes of the game Harding came agonisingly close to converting Zelem’s cross and a Doncaster ball that flashed across the face of goal was again held well by Chamberlain.

Liverpool have now gone 7 games unbeaten in the league – keeping an impressive 5 clean sheets, conceding only twice and scoring 10. The Reds have just 4 games to play in their 2016 FAWSL campaign and sit a point from 4th.

Scott Rogers’ side now go on the road with away ties at Reading, Birmingham and Doncaster, before a final home game against Arsenal on Sunday, November 6th.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner ©, Ingle, Van Den Berg, Longhurst, Coombs, Weir, Van De Sanden, Harding, Lundh


PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Satara Murray/ Natasha Harding

Monday, 8 August 2016

REPORT: BIRMINGHAM CITY LADIES 1 LIVERPOOL LADIES 0 (AET)

Birmingham City Ladies progressed to the semi finals of the Continental Cup at the expense of Liverpool Ladies on Sunday afternoon.

It took over 120 minutes for a goal to be scored, Coral-Jade Haines coming off the bench and breaking Liverpool hearts in added time of extra time as she prodded the winner over the line.

The Reds couldn't be faulted for their efforts in what was an evenly matched cup tie; Laura Coombs had struck the post in the first half while Tash Harding and Emma Lundh also went close.

Liverpool boss Scott Rogers kept his side unchanged from last weekend's comeback victory at Arsenal, sticking with a 4-3-3 formation with Siobhan Chamberlain behind a defence of Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Mandy Van Den Berg.

Coombs was joined in midfield by Kate Longhurst and Katie Zelem; Harding, Shanice Van De Sanden and Caroline Weir led the attack.

The opening five minutes saw both sides tentatively passing the ball about, neither taking a risk and appearing cautious in possession. 

Van Den Berg has seen a recall to the starting lineup in recent weeks at due to left back Alex Greenwood facing a spell on the sidelines and the game sparked into life when the Dutch captain intercepted a pass.

This interception allowing Van Den Berg to play a quick one-two before bombing forwards and finding Weir arriving in the box, Weir firing just wide.

Finding space now at the other end of the field Birmingham forward Kirsty Linnett sent a dangerous ball into the Liverpool area, this was gathered by Chamberlain.

Chamberlain was on alert again moments later, the home side pressing back forwards and earning a corner. This floated to the edge of the box and was headed tamely towards the Reds 'keeper.

On either wing Van De Sanden and Harding were the stand out performers for Liverpool, chasing every ball and applying pressure to the defence.

Harding chased one particular ball in the first half that seemed to be a lost cause, the Blues defender certainly believing so, yet the winger reached it on the touchline with lightning quick speed and swinging a cross in that connected with Weir, her low hit deflected wide.

From the resulting corner Harding herself attacked the ball at the back post, this effort was blocked 

For large parts of the first half Liverpool were on top, yet ultimately unable to capitalise on the chances created.

Coombs went closest hitting the post from 25 yards out, while Harding from prevented from getting a shot in by a well-timed challenge after a pinpoint pass from Weir.

The Reds were quick out the blocks for the second half, Harding again closing in and clipping a shot that had new Blues 'keeper Ann Katrin Berger beat but somehow was kept out by Jess Carter.

However chances on the whole became sparse for both sides and it would be extra time before another meaningful opportunity.

Into 30 minutes of extra time with penalties looming, Birmingham piled on the pressure. A set piece glancing across the face of goal and Chamberlain at full stretch to keep Haines' hit from reaching the top corner.

At the midway stage Niamh Charles entered the action in place of Van De Sanden and the youngster made an immediate impact, impressively beating her marker to cut the ball back up the box towards Lundh - who had entered the fray for Coombs earlier.

Lundh arrived unmarked but could only watch as her low drive was blocked on the line.

Straight back up at the other end, Haines let a shot fly from outside the box that again had Chamberlain diving to keep out.

Not long after the assistant referee had held up the board to show one additional minute at the end of the 120, Haines finally broke the deadlock amidst a sea of bodies in the area to tap over the line from yards out.

Liverpool were out of the Cup with almost the last kick of the game and now face just  league games between now and the end of the campaign, with the aim surely being to move back into the top half of the table - the Reds currently sit 5th on 16 points, 4 behind Birmingham with a game in hand.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray (Hodson), Bonner (C), Ingle, Van Den Berg, Coombs (Charles), Longhurst, Zelem, Harding, Van De Sanden (Lundh), Weir

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Natasha Harding


Monday, 18 July 2016

X-REDS: I'm a Breaker!

It's been a while since I last blogged about X-Reds, a new section of the blog started with good intentions back in April before having to take a back seat due to university work (I'm now a graduate!).

But now, it's back. X-Reds has gone global - I'm in Boston!


I've come out here on a footballing pilgrimage, those who have followed LFCladiesfans for a couple of years may be familiar with my blogs on trips to Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash in previous summers. To mark graduating uni and before entering the scary world of applying for graduate jobs, I decided to take a trip to America and take in as many NWSL games as possible.

Arriving in Boston on Friday and watching their 3-2 defeat to Sky Blue FC yesterday afternoon (more of that later in the blog), on Wednesday I'll be headed to New York to watch the Flash play on Saturday and the following weekend catching both Chicago Red Stars and another Breakers game before coming home.

Boston Breakers are of course managed by ex-Liverpool Ladies manager Matt Beard, the coach who turned the Reds' fortunes around, signing countless excellent players, won two league titles and led us into Europe for the first time. 

Matt has been joined in Boston by Whitney Engen, the US defender who cemented a place in the national team while at Liverpool. Whitney has been named captain of Boston, but is away with the US at the moment due to her inclusion in the Olympics squad.

Also following Matt to Boston is Louise Schillgard (was Fors) and Libby Stout. 

Louise one of my favourite players to have watched at the Reds back in 2013, and out of retirement to play for the Breakers and not to overuse the word favourite, but my favourite goalkeeper Libby Stout! 



On the day of the game my friend and I visited Havard University as the team play at one of their stadiums - Jordan Field.

The stadium is a short walk from the main Harvard campus and is right next door to the colossal Harvard Stadium - which you could walk right into and look around.

One thing that I love about women's football games in America is how excited everybody appears to be from the staff to the supporters about the game, the Breakers haven't had much luck in recent weeks and have registered just one win in the league this season. Yet there was an optimistic atmosphere - likely helped no doubt that the club announced the signing of another ex-Liverpool player Natasha Dowie (46 goals in 67 appearances for the Reds) two hours before kick off.

Dowie wasn't at the game yesterday but hopefully will be across for the Orlando game on the 31st.

I collect football scarves so bought a Breakers one (along with a shirt) for my collection, I even put it on for one hot brief second before realising that it was about 30 degrees out and swiftly put it into my backpack. The shirt however stayed on. 

We settled into our seats, sat back to relax and watch the game. Then a drum started in the next section to us. I thought I'd left the drum behind in Widnes and here was a travelling group of maybe 15-20 Sky Blue fans that could rival Liverpool's excellent support. Although the lyrics to the songs could do with a little work, what could better Caroline Weir's Scottish ballad. 

The Sky Blue fans also had a cow bell which was interesting and pretty much sang continuously from the opening to the final whistle.

The Breakers supporters had drums of their own - and flares! 

On the field the Breakers got off to the best possible start, Stephanie Verdoia winning the ball inside the Sky Blue half and playing a nicely timed pass wide to the chasing Stephanie McCaffrey. McCaffrey's cross bounced around the box before being sent over the line by Angela Salem - scoring her first goal for the club in just the 3rd minute.

Just over 20 minutes later however, and following a couple of good saves by Sky Blue keeper Caroline Casey, Christen Westphal brought down Leah Galton in the area. Sarah Gillion stepped up to take the spot kick and duly equalised for the visitors.

Before half time, they would take the lead. Galton poking home Natasha Kai's cross to put Sky Blue 2-1 up.

At half time my friend Jack left, we had tickets for Paul McCartney at Fenway Park and he didn't want to miss any of it, so I moved to the opposite end of the pitch to sit with what I'm going to call the Breakers Ultras, because of the flares.

Unfortunately Sky Blue found the back of the net once more, a very well worked set piece move finished by Erica Skroski.

The Breakers rallied during the final 10 minutes; Schillgard, who I was genuinely thrilled to watch play live once more, became the centerpiece and it will be interesting and exciting to see her possibly revive her on-field partnership with Natasha Dowie once she arrives. As I mentioned on twitter yesterday in their one and only season together at Liverpool they netted a combined 29 goals with a number of Dowie's assisted by Schillgard herself.

It was Schillgard who teed up Julie King for the Breakers second of the afternoon. A delightful free kick that landed perfectly for King to head past Casey - leading my new Ultra friends to set off a flare!


This led to a tense ending to the game as the Breakers pressed for an equaliser that never came, the tie finishing 3-2 to Sky Blue F.C.

All in all it was a promising display from the Breakers, 2 goals scored against a side that hadn't conceded in the previous 3 games and a defence that contained Christie Rampone(!). 

The side were also missing Engen and the suspended Brooke Elby, while Dowie could be the goal scorer they need to finish some of the chances created in the opening 30 minutes.

Following the game it was good to catch up with Matt and see both Libby and Lollo! It's also been great to meet Tris who lives in Boston and supports both Boston and Liverpool, I love being able to go to new places and meet people that I have met through LFCladiesfans! I'm already looking forward to my return trip here on 31st July.

p.s. my taxi pulled up outside of Fenway Park just as Macca came on stage, talk about timing! Although he got the words to Hey Jude wrong, na na na na, Fara Williams! 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

REPORT: LIVERPOOL LADIES 2 READING FC WOMEN 0

Natasha Harding struck her first goal in a red shirt as Liverpool Ladies eased to a comfortable 2-0 win over promoted side Reading FC Women.

Both goals came in quick succession during the first half, Laura Coombs had teed Harding up for hers and then netted one of her own to seal the victory.


Scott Rogers had navigated a tumultuous start to life as manager of Liverpool Ladies, with one win in six as the Reds had no trouble finding the back of the net yet struggled defensively.

In recent weeks however the current has begun to turn. A thumping 4-0 victory away at Sunderland in May was followed by back-to-back hard fought draws with top of the league Manchester City.

Next came progression to the quarter-finals of the Continental Cup with a battling derby performance against Merseyside rivals Everton.

Now the Reds are unbeaten in five, having conceded just once - away at City - and scored eight goals with seven different scorers.

Rogers reverted to the side that had twice frustrated City; Caroline Weir flanked either side by Natasha Harding and Shanice De Sanden; Rosie White, Kate Longhurst and Laura Coombs in midfield and a back line that is now unchanged in the last five games with Siobhan Chamberlain in goal behind Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Alex Greenwood. 

To say that Liverpool dominated the first half would be an understatement, the neat passes and clever runs a demonstration of understanding amongst team mates and a mark of a team taking shape and coming together. 

The Reds set up camp in the Reading half, drawing a couple of early free kicks as Greenwood first swung one inside the box that was met by Harding yet took a deflection to fall into the hands of Reading goalie Mary Earps.

Then Harding was fouled at the edge of the area after exchanging passes with Greenwood and Coombs stepped up to send the set piece inches wide.

On a couple of occasions Reading broke ranks; the ever-impressive Murray intercepting one hopeful ball forward and finding Longhurst. Longhurst in turn got the ball wide to Van De Sanden who exhibited her explosive pace to cut in and square to Weir, however the move ended with the Scottish international's strike blocked. 

Reading's Emma Follis then created a chance for herself, finding space and shooting from distance. The effort flew past the backtracking Chamberlain but, fortunately for Liverpool, crashed back off the crossbar and the Reds were able to clear.

The visitors would be left to rue this chance as with almost the next move Liverpool took the lead. Coombs put Harding through and the Welsh winger finishing low past Earps to chalk up her first goal for the club and put Liverpool ahead. 

Just seven minutes later it was 2 - Coombs this time the recipient of the ball within the area, a wonderful through ball from Weir, and lifting the ball over Earps' shoulder from  yards out.

As half time loomed both sides had chances, White unable to control her header following a Weir set piece and Harding closed down by two Reading defenders inside the area before she was able to get a shot in.

For Reading Jade Boho-Sayo could only watch as Chamberlain dived to punch her effort clear, while back at the other end Van De Sanden had Earps beaten once more with a fancy flick yet the centre back managed to head away. 

Reading made two changes at the break as they looked to drag themselves back into the game, Amber Stobbs and Molly Bartrip on for Helen Ward and Hannah Knapton.

The substitutions made a difference for the visitors and they had an array of chances at the beginning of the second half. Bonner expertly defending a low cross 6-yards out from goal and Coombs smartly showing Boho-Sayo away from goal before dispossessing the former Bristol forward and allowing Longhurst to carry the ball away.

Then Chamberlain rose highest to claim a corner before quickly reacting to Follis' shot at point blank range, preventing the no.7 from pulling a goal back.

Reading also hit the woodwork once more in the second half, Stobbs seeing Chamberlain push her strike onto the crossbar with the rebound hurriedly cleared by Bonner as Follis looked to capitalise.

The Reds were carving opportunities out of their own as Reading looked to pull a goal back, the second half more of an even contest and both Harding and Van De Sanden causing the opposition defence plenty of problems.

Van De Sanden latching onto a long ball forward to round Earps yet let down by a first touch that was a tad too heavy and allowed the ball to run away from her, while Harding almost doubled her tally for the afternoon but seeing her header from a Weir free kick land in the arms of Earps.

Despite Reading's second half resurgence, Liverpool impressively defended as a team to keep their fourth clean sheet in five games - a huge positive they can take into their next game, same time next Saturday against Notts County Ladies.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner (C), Ingle, Greenwood, Longhurst, Coombs, White (Zelem), Harding (Charles), Van De Sanden (Hodson), Weir

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Natasha Harding

Sunday, 3 July 2016

REPORT: EVERTON 0 LIVERPOOL 1

OVER 1,000 supporters were in attendance at the Select Security Stadium, Widnes to watch Liverpool Ladies knock Merseyside rivals Everton Ladies out of the Continental Cup.


A scrappy opening to the game seen chances for either side sparse before Emma Lundh caused chaos inside the 6-yard box on the stroke of half-time, rising highest and appearing to head the ball past Kirstie Levell.

The forward has since declared on her Twitter account that she didn’t get the final touch, attributing the goal to Blues defender Dan Turner.

Scott Rogers had made several changes to the team that drew away at Manchester City; the back line remaining unchanged with Siobhan Chamberlain behind Satara Murray, Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle and Alex Greenwood.

Mandy Van Den Berg returned to the starting 11 in defensive midfield and was joined in the centre by Katie Zelem and Caroline Weir – the Scottish international playing a slightly deeper role than of late.
Lundh also started alongside Tash Harding and Shanice Van De Sanden in attack.

Having missed the opening 10 minutes due to the revised kick off time and heavy traffic, my first taste of derby day action was rather subdued – although I’m reliably informed Murray made an impressive early challenge to prevent Rosella Ayane getting a shot in when the on-loan Chelsea youngster was through on goal.

The Blues went close again when another loan signing, Chloe Kelly of Arsenal making her debut, won possession deep in the Liverpool half and hurriedly fired a shot at goal that was easy for Chamberlain to collect.

Liverpool chances flowed through Greenwood, both her delivery from open play and set piece a source of opportunity for her team mates.

Centre back pairing Ingle and Bonner both connecting with corners yet Ingle was unable to direct her header on target and Bonner’s attempt was gathered by Levell.

From open play Greenwood had also found Weir in the box, Harding neatly flicking the ball onto Weir but Everton’s Turner blocking her ball towards Zelem who had surged forward to aid the attack.

Then Greenwood herself almost capitalised on good wing play by Van De Sanden, the no.11 had cut in from the right to send a pass to the left back 20 yards from goal. Greenwood struck the ball well and was denied only by the leaping Levell who punched her shot over the crossbar.

Everton’s greatest chance of the game came as Kelly twisted and turned inside the Reds penalty box, squirming away from her marker to shoot from 10 yards out – Chamberlain quick to react and palming the effort away.

The Reds took the lead shortly later as Lundh was the only red shirt amongst a sea of blue inside the 6-yard box as Greenwood’s delivery from a corner dropped in the middle; Lundh jumped and seemed to get the final touch, yet the goal will likely go down as a Turner own goal.

Neither Lundh nor Turner returned with their respective sides following the break, Rosie White on for Lundh and Turner replaced by Ellie Stewart.

It’s fair to say that Murray has enjoyed a fine run in the side this season, this her fourth consecutive start on the right of the defence. In the first half the American had been penned back in her own half, yet as Everton faltered she was able to move higher up the pitch.

Dispossessing a blue shirt of the ball just inside the Everton half and carrying the ball high up the pitch, the final cross intercepted before it could reach a team mate.

Liverpool dominated proceedings in the second half however were unable to capitalise with a second goal, Greenwood once more refused a goal against her old club by Levell and then White fizzing a chance wide after being put through by the left back.

Levell made it a hat trick of impressive saves shortly after the hour mark, stopping Ingle’s effort at point blank range.

Controversy then reigned as former Reds defender Stewart received her marching orders for a challenge on Van De Sanden.

Everton were down to 10 as Liverpool continued to see the game out with ease, into the final minutes of the game Harding showcasing her pace after tapping the ball wide to Greenwood, receiving it back to nudge it around the Blues right back – her final ball stopped by the defence.

There was time for one more Everton chance, another ex-Liverpool player Claudia Walker letting a shot fly from 20 yards but luckily for her former club this went inches wide and the Reds progressed into the quarter-finals.

LIVERPOOL LADIES: Chamberlain, Murray, Bonner ©, Ingle, Greenwood, Van Den Berg, Weir, Zelem, Harding, Van De Sanden, Lundh

PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Alex Greenwood