Things are definitely going to get worse before they get better for the Liverpool Women, as evidenced by Sunday’s loss to Reading FC in their home opener. The Women returned to Prenton Park, full of good feelings as they finally brought home a win from Brighton last week, despite the loss of goalkeeper Anke Preuss through an injury sustained in training earlier this week.
Chris Kirkland returned as caretaker manager with Vicky Jepson as his assistant (and we all know how I feel about that move) and gave Fran Kitching her debut in goal as Preuss’ replacement.
The first half started strong, as the Women were eager to take control of their home turf. Shots came early and quickly, but their first real chance came at 13 minutes on, when a gorgeous pass from Rhiannon Roberts found Niamh Charles down the left channel. Charles then threaded the ball through the needle to find Laura Coombs feet perfectly, only to have her shot stopped by Reading keeper Grace Maloney.
Fran Kitching proved she should not be underestimated in this first half, saving a few spectular shots from set pieces early in the first half. Her star moment came when she stopped ex-Red Fara Williams’ free kick from close range. While Kitching was showing off her skills, the Reds truly put Maloney to the test, with the Reading stopper having to make save after save as the Reds pushed her line.
At 22 minutes in a clean throughball from Coombs put Courtney Sweetman-Kirk towards goal, but Maloney got off her line quickas she could to stop it from becoming anything.
Ten minutes before the break was when the solitary goal came, as a long ball from Kirsty Pearce caught the Reds defense flat. Brooke Chaplen picked it up with ease and sent it just past Kitching into the bottom corner to put the visitors ahead. Jess Clarke had one last chance before the break to bring it level, bombing down the pitch with her eye on goal, only to have the ball cleared by the Reading defense.
The second half started with Reading buzzing after their first goal and the Reds struggling to hold their line as the visitors pushed for a second. Things were starting to get dicey as the Reds fought harder to keep their place, defending well through Leighanne Robe and Jasmine Matthews.
A stunning blow came around the 55th minute when Rhiannon Roberts was shown red after a second bookable foul, putting the hosts down to ten women on the pitch. The Reds were getting desperate now as the Royals surely were going to push harder with the advantage.
Niamh Charles remained a great outlet for Liverpool, though, proving to have just the movement needed to push for an equalizer down her left flank. Charles even played the ball out wide to Jess Clarke in her Clarke’s last involvement in the match, but the following cross was too short and cleared before Charles could pounce on it.
Kitching continued to be in fine form, keeping the visitors from doubling their lead, and it was substitute Rinsola Babijde who made the last effort of the match, very nearly equalizing for the Women in stoppage time. In what was basically a sign of all of Liverpool’s efforts today, Babajide’s shot just narrowly went over the crossbar and the match ended 0-1 to Reading.
So back to disappointment it is for Liverpool Women and while they did well to fight until the very end, it’s just another heaping of bitterness added to this season of heartbreak.